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February 2014

Elsewhere (110)

Via dicentra, Kevin D Williamson on the many heads of modern feminism

Feminism is not an idea or a collection of ideas but a collection of appetites wriggling queasily together like a bag of snakes… A useful definition is this: “Feminism is the words ‘I Want!’ in the mouths of three or more women, provided they’re the right kind of women.” Feminism must therefore accommodate wildly incompatible propositions - e.g., (1) Women unquestionably belong alongside men in Marine units fighting pitched battles in Tora Bora, but (2) really should not be expected to be able to perform three chin-ups. Or: (1) Women at Columbia are empowered by pornography, but (2) women at Wellesley are victimised by a statue of a man sleepwalking in his Shenanigans. And then there is Fluke’s Law: (1) Women are responsible moral agents with full sexual and economic autonomy who (2) must be given an allowance, like children, when it comes to contraceptives.

Walter Russell Mead on how to ruin your life

Enrol in a college you can’t afford. Take really easy, fun courses [e.g., Politicizing Beyoncé, or The Sociology of Hip-Hop: The Theodicy of Jay-Z]. Don’t worry about marketable skills. Blame society for the consequences (unemployment) of your attitude problem. Then demand the government (or your parents) bail you out. We guarantee you all the misery you could ever want.

Robert Stacy McCain argues with a middle-class communist

The extreme egoism of communist leaders is a trait displayed throughout the history of the movement since Marx’s ridiculous insistence that only his socialism was “scientific.” Yet such is Jesse Myerson’s egoism that he imagines himself superior even to Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. At least they had the integrity to admit that the abolition of private property — the expropriation of the bourgeoisie — could only be accomplished by violent revolution, and that the victors of such a revolution would have to employ the methods of violent terror to establish their dictatorship.

And Daniel Hannan on the politics of spite:  

Ponder the graph above. Sixty-nine per cent of Labour supporters would want a top rate tax of 50 per cent even if it brought in no money… This is a blog about the mind-set of people who see taxation, not as an unpleasant necessity, but as a way to punish others.

As we’ve seen here many times, some Labour supporters are quite happy to parade their vindictiveness as if it were virtue

Feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments. 

Friday Ephemera

Impressive cocks. // When couples go shopping, the menfolk tire first. (h/t, TDK) // With pencil and acrylic. // Casting shadows. // At last, pentagonal fruit. // But it’s what transformers do. // The same, on a budget. // A brief history of drum machines. And a book too. // Atomic pills. // Pondering pop culture, 1984. // Testing with noise. // Designer fire-making kit. // The Russian cheese label museum. (h/t, Coudal) // Logan’s Run street game. “Brief periods of running, wear comfortable shoes.” // I want one and so do you. // And finally, students suffer “apprehension, fear and triggering” because of underpants statue. It’s “assaulting,” a source of “undue stress” and making students “feel unsafe.” 

A Dining Room Comedy

Part of the issue with the word “serve” isn’t just that it’s sexist, it’s also linked to all the invisible work we take for granted and often don’t appreciate – from slavery to the waiters we don’t like to tip.

One for our collection of classic sentences, I think.

I felt like my wife was offering to perpetuate the very sexist ways that women have and continue to supply invisible and undervalued labour. And I wanted no part in that.

The bearer of these sorrows, David Dennis, has apparently spent an awful lot of time fretting about his wife putting food on his plate. I mean literally putting food on his plate, as when serving a typical meal. Given Mr Dennis’s rather pronounced Guardianista tendencies, it’s scarcely surprising that he’s also been fretting that other people, possibly people much like himself, may subsequently judge him for this patriarchal trespass, as if he and his wife were dreadful throwbacks to a darker, more primitive age:

The problem seems to arise when other people outside our marriage project their criticisms and expectations of gender onto our actions. Typically, they might only observe one action – like making the Thanksgiving plate – and make assumptions, much as I initially had. Usually, the assumption was that my wife and I were living some sort of twisted Stepford Wife life.

Will nothing short of a clearly visible gender-balanced serving rota stem this flow of tears? Or perhaps a mechanised buffet? 

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Lovely, Lovely Guilt

The Guardian’s Natalie Hanman - who edits Comment Is Free, where the party never stops - urges us to cultivate some pretentious guilt. Boldly, she asks:

Should Benedict Cumberbatch say sorry for the slave owners in his family?

Not current family members, you understand. So far as I’m aware, Mr Cumberbatch doesn’t have some weird cousin with strangers chained up in the cellar. No, we have to project our agonising backwards in time, past parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents – past centuries of people who are themselves strangers:

A newly appointed city commissioner in New York, Stacey Cumberbatch, told the New York Times last week that she believed British actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s fifth great-grandfather owned her ancestors on an 18th-century sugar plantation in Barbados. They “are related,” the newspaper noted, “if not by blood, then by geography and the complicated history of the slave trade.”

Which is to say, actually, not related at all.

The Cumberbatch case involves two high-profile individuals and so has had media attention, but these questions concern us all.

I suspect opinions on that point may differ.

For as long as structural inequalities persist, we cannot overlook how far the tentacles of history might reach into the present. The real challenge is to recognise, and address, how much the privileges of the past continue to benefit some, and wrong others, today.

We “cannot overlook” these things, you see; we must “address” them and weigh our privilege. Some more than others, it seems. So says the woman who gets paid to invent esoteric problems and then fret at length in print. But those “tentacles of history,” through which our “collective responsibility” is supposedly transmitted – and with it, lots of lovely, lovely guilt - reach an awfully long way, across continents, cultures and all manner of events. From the theft of sheep and chickens, and subsequent hangings, to all kinds of nepotism, tribal slaughter, imperial invasions and counter-invasions, the extinction of fluffy creatures and high seas piracy. It therefore isn’t entirely clear why an accountant’s line should be drawn so confidently at any given point, as opposed to any other given point. If the objective here is to search out some vicarious moral contamination, surely we should be thorough? If the game is genealogical guilt, why stick to mere centuries? We’ve all of history to play with. And what if a single family line includes both slaves and owners, lords and labourers, inventors of vaccines and kickers of kittens? What kind of retrospective moral arithmetic will untangle those knots?   

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