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?)

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…)

 

 

 

 

 

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.

How to Make a Man Grow Up

I was recently surprised to discover that in the U.S., men are required by law to register for the “selective service system”.

Only men. I thought women were allowed in their military now.

And required. I didn’t think they had ‘the draft’ anymore.

When I expressed my surprise, hoping to engage someone in conversation, the guy in line behind me (I was in a U.S. post office, where the brochures reminding men of their duty were prominently displayed) says he agrees that it should be mandatory to serve for two years: it makes ‘em ‘grow up’.

Hm. How does teaching someone how to kill make a person grow up? That is, what’s mature about learning how to kill? What’s mature about actually killing?

Of course, it’s not just that. But what’s mature about not thinking or yourself, about being pressured to conform, to obey?

Sure, the forced routine, of physical exercise and psychological effort, might become a habit. And that’s a good thing. A grown up thing. But there are other, far better, ways to achieve that same result.

And sure, the presumed altruism—you’re serving their country, life’s not all about you—is good, mature. But again, is killing someone for others really the best example of altruism we can put before young men? Young men who need to grow up?

It seems to me the selective service system is a bad way to fix a bunch of other bad ways.

The question we have to ask is how do boys get to eighteen without growing up?

Men Need to Reclaim the Moral

Something I noticed when I taught Business Ethics, primarily to male students, is that men seem to think ethics is ‘a girl thing’. What? What?! (My god, that can explain everything!)

Men routinely insult other men who express concern about doing the right thing—“What are you, a fucking boy scout?” Note that boy scouts are children.

Worse, men who raise ethical questions are accused of going soft, being weak, being a bleeding heart. Note that these qualities are associated with being female. It’s thus emasculating to be concerned about right and wrong. What?!

Apparently, Mom is assigned the role of teaching the kids right from wrong. And, of course, anything Mom does is held in contempt as soon as a boy hits twelve, so this may partly explain why men eschew ethics.

Right and wrong is also the arena of priests and we all know priests aren’t real men. They’re celibate for god’s sake.

Ethics presumes caring, and real men don’t care. (They especially don’t cry, tears being evidence of caring about something.) They may protest that they can’t ‘afford’ to care; they have to make real decisions about profit and war, and feelings just get in the way. As if ethics is all, only, about feelings. (Where did they get their education? Oh, they didn’t. We don’t actually teach ethics. Except in a few university courses.)

The problem is men run the world. And it’s not going well.

Isn’t it about time men reclaim the moral? If rising above the gendered worldview is too much, then just redefine your terms a bit—and for gawdsake Man up! Consider (and then do) the right thing!

Men who need Mom to clean up after them

I spend a lot of time walking on the dirt roads near by place, as well as on the old logging roads through the forest. Twice a year, I take a large garbage bag with me to pick up the litter – mostly beer cans and fast food containers, but often whole plastic bags of garbage have been tossed in among the trees. (Lately, I’ve had to take two large garbage bags.)

I typically wait until the fall, because it seems the summer people litter more than those of us who live here, and I typically wait until after the spring hunt, because it seems the hunters leave quite a bit of trash.

I have always suspected that men litter more than women, and I’ve come across a statistic supporting my hunch: males do 72% of deliberate littering and are responsible for 96% of accidental littering (http://www.greenecoservices.com/myths-and-facts-litter/).

Why is this so? I think it’s because ‘cleaning up after’ is seen as a woman’s task. (This thought occurred to me when one guy slowed down as he passed me in his truck, while I was on one of my litter pick-up walks, and called out, “Good girl! Good to see you’re good for something!”) After all, wasn’t it Mom who cleaned up after them when they were kids? (Mom did the cleaning; Dad did the fixing.) Of course the generalization from Mom to all women is a mistake: “Mom cleaned up after me, Mom is a woman, so women should clean up after me” is the same as “Princess is a kitten, Princess is white, so white things are/should be kittens”. But I doubt these morons can think in a — well, I doubt these morons can think.

Of course a mistake is made too in thinking that when you’re old enough to drink beer and buy your own fast food, you’re still a kid who needs Mom or a woman to clean up after you. (No, wait, I’m making the mistake there – I’m confusing chronological age with developmental age.)

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!

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.