Toller Cranston on Janet Lynn

[Obviously written a while ago, and yet … this shit keeps being said.]

 

Toller Cranston, as Janet Lynn takes the ice: “You wouldn’t know by looking at her that she’s a housewife and mother of three.”

What?

Would he have said of Kurt Browning, “You wouldn’t know by looking at him that he does stuff around the house and is a father of three”??

I think not.

Clearly Cranston thinks that – well, I don’t know what the hell he thinks.  That doing stuff around the house is somehow incompatible with – skating?  I’ll grant that being a parent could deplete one’s energy to the point that maintaining an elite level of athletic performance is unlikely, but that would apply only if the kids were a certain age and only if one didn’t have any assistance – and it would apply to men as well as women.

I suspect he has some stereotype of housewife and mother in his mind that Lynn didn’t fit.  Perhaps that of a ditsy simpleton or an unkempt troll.

The Academy Awards – why sex-segregated for acting?

Why is the acting category of the Academy Awards sex-segregated (Best Actor in a Lead/Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Leading/Supporting Role)?  We don’t have separate awards for male and female directors. Or screenwriters, cinematographers, costume designers, film editors, soundtrack composers, or make up persons.

Is one’s sex really relevant to one’s acting ability? In a way that justifies separate awards?

Of course not.

My guess is that it’s because the award isn’t really for the actor/actress, but for the character portrayed.  Probably partly because most people can’t distinguish the two.  I’ll bet George Clooney still gets asked what to do by moms whose kid has a fever.

Even so, why do we have separate categories?

Because if we didn’t, women would never win.  Not because they’re worse actors (remember the award isn’t for acting ability), but because we honor the heroes.  And women never get to play hero.

 

Gender and Sex

Gender and Sex

Do you know the difference?

Do you understand the consequences of getting them mixed up?

Do you understand the consequences of thinking they’re related?

 

Mentoring

Studies show that people who have had mentors, who have had someone to provide “sponsorship, exposure, visibility, coaching, protection, and challenging assignments – activities which directly relate to the protégé’s career” do indeed experience more career advancement than people who have not had mentors [1].  In a study of 1241 American executives, 67% of all respondents said they had a mentor [2].  Which just goes to show  – it’s who you know.  That’s how, why, they are executives.

Given that it’s a 1979 statistic, presumably the respondents are referring to an informal mentorship, which arises spontaneously, as opposed to a formal mentorship, which is arranged by the organization as part of a mentoring program.  The problem in both cases, however, is that most people who are in a position to mentor, a position of power and prestige, a well-connected position, are men.  Still.  So sexism keeps women from becoming protégés – because even if the guy’s wife is fine with it, everyone will wonder whether she’s sleeping her way to the top and that’ll handicap her, essentially cancelling any advantage of the mentorship.  Furthermore, women who could be mentors avoid mentoring other women because they fear being labelled feminist troublemakers.  Why don’t men fear mentoring other men for fear they’ll be labelled – what, part of the old boys’ network?

All that aside, it seems to me that mentoring is unfair: it makes ‘it’s who you know not what you know’ true.  Merit becomes not the sole criterion for advancement.

Though perhaps mentoring counters chance.  Chance is unfair too.  With mentoring, those who do get doors opened for them are those who deserve it.  But to say ‘All A are B’ doesn’t mean ‘All B are A’: to say ‘All those who are mentored have merit’ doesn’t mean ‘All those with merit become mentored’.  And, of course, I’m not sure mentors choose their protégés according to merit.

So why do mentors choose who they choose?  Why do mentors mentor at all?  I wonder if it isn’t just some primitive lineage impulse in action.  You know… men need a son, someone to carry on the family name.  And since it’s more and more unlikely that men have actual sons in a position to be their protégés …  Do mentors tend to choose sons of friends when available?  Do they tend to choose people who are twenty to thirty years younger, in the ‘son’ age bracket?  What about women who mentor?  (More likely, their motive is social justice, not personal legacy.)

I’m not saying people shouldn’t seek, or give, advice and guidance.  That’s not what mentoring is all about.  A mentor does more than that: a mentor introduces you to influential people in the organization, facilitates your entry to meetings and activities usually attended by high-level people, publicly praises your accomplishments and abilities, recommends you for promotion, and so on.  But see here’s the thing.  Introductions should be unnecessary.  Meetings attended by high level personnel shouldn’t be open to others.  Everyone’s accomplishments and abilities should be praised publicly.  Only your immediate supervisor or some named designate should be able to recommend you for a  promotion.  And so on.

In any case, the need for mentors means the organization isn’t structured to advance based on merit.  So shouldn’t mentors’ efforts instead be directed to making sure that it is?  To making sure that mentors aren’t needed?  You shouldn’t need a mentor to open doors because the doors shouldn’t be locked.  You shouldn’t need a mentor to give you inside information because there shouldn’t be any inside information: an organization’s policies and procedures should be written out for all to read, perhaps even presented at a new employee training session (and there should be no unwritten policies, no under-the-table procedures); any preferences for application materials, be it for a job, a promotion, or a grant, should be stated on the application form itself, or perhaps explained in a separate ‘Tips for Applicants’ sheet; and knowledge of any available job, promotion, or grant should be freely accessible to all.  Influential people should use their influence only in formal channels; their authority should only be that vested in them by the terms of their job description.

Men are so proud of not mixing pleasure and business, of separating the personal from the public.  Bullshit.  Aren’t a lot of critical connections, let alone decisions, made on the golf course?  At the bar?  Between conference sessions?  It seems that by ‘personal’ and ‘pleasure’ they just mean women – wives, daughters, sexual liaisons.  They leave the women in their lives out of consideration.  But their relationships with their buddies and their sons – these are very much brought into the workplace.

 

[1] “Formal and Informal Mentorships: A Comparison on Mentoring Functions and Contrast with Non-mentored Counterparts,” Georgia T. Chao and Pat M. Walz  Personnel Psychology 45.3 (1992)

[2] “Much Ado about Mentors,”  B. Roche.  Harvard Business Review 5.7 (1979)

“What is Wrong with this Picture?” – short film script

This film consists of a collage of scenes, five to ten minutes in length), in which women are always the superordinates and men are always the subordinates.  Dialogue isn’t that important, so once the scenes are decided upon and roughed out, the cast can probably improv rather than follow a script.

 

Suggested scenes:

Office: Woman in executive office summons her secretary, who is a man, who enters and politely inquires “Yes, m’am?”  She says something like “Ask Ms. Jordan to come to my office, then bring us coffee, please, and hold all calls.”  He nods in subordinate fashion and exits.

Boardroom:  Seated around the table discussing important matters are, every one of them, women.

Hospital scene: Female doctors and male nurses and clerks.

University: Female faculty and male support staff.

Bank:  Male tellers; occupants of individual offices are all women.

Courtroom: Judge, lawyers, and security are women; clerk is male.

Golf course:  Only women are playing.

Office:  Woman executive directs her male assistant to call her husband and tell him she’ll be late for dinner.

Home:  Househusband answers the phone, surrounded by cloying, annoying kids, and shows irritation at the message.

Fancy restaurant:  Several women dine together and discuss business.

Doctor’s office: Female doctor giving embarrassed man a physical, which includes a close examination of his penis as well as a rectal examination.

Househusband taking kids to the dentist: The waiting room is full of fathers and kids; the receptionist is male, as is the dental hygienist; the dentist, who breezes in for the authoritative final check of the hygienist’s work, is female.

Househusband grocery shopping:  All of the other shoppers and all of the checkout cashiers are men; a woman is in the manager’s office.

Home:  Husband sets the table and brings out the dinner he has prepared; kids and mother sit waiting; perhaps the woman offers to help, but the offer isn’t really genuine and is brushed aside. with a smile.

Guests for dinner: Two male-female couples are sitting at a dinner table; the conversation is dominated by the women who talk about politics; the two men are silent, though they look supportive from time to time and interject supportive comments, questions to let the women shine; one of the women says something like “Let’s let the boys clean up, shall we?” and the two women retire to the living room for drinks and more conversation.

Office lunchroom: All and only men sit in small groups talking about their kids, the need for an on-site daycare, their failure to obtain promotions, their bosses; a sweet male voice comes over intercom “Danny, Ms. X would like to see you right away”, at which Danny grimaces but gets up and leaves the room.

Car:  Woman at the wheel, man in the passenger seat.

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.