Friday, March 25, 2016

Why I Am Not a Feminist

Wikipedia defines Feminism as: "Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. Feminists typically advocate or support the rights and equality of women. ".

Sounds OK, right? Who wouldn't want equal rights and opportunities for both sexes? Initially, the "raw deal" that women have had over the centuries does appear unfair: no vote, often no opportunity to have a career and make as much money as a man, discrimination when women do so, etc. The problem, in my opinion (and I'm admittedly no expert), is that this is a simplistic and sexist point of view in the first place. Years ago I remember hearing a friend who majored in Women's Studies in university being asked the question: "Why is there no Men's Studies major?" Her answer was simply: "You can consider what has happened in the past few thousand years as Men's Studies. This particular friend was a strong feminist. It opened my eyes to the perspective of feminism: that women had been kept down by men throughout history, and that now it was time to turn that around. But is that actually true? I don't think there's any doubt that at times women have been oppressed by men, but is it a common theme in human history? I'm not so sure. Men and women, really male and female primates, have had different roles in family and in society through most of our history for obvious reasons. Maybe it's a generalization, but men have gathered the resources to supply the family or clan with necessities of life while women have nurtured the young and performed many of the necessities at home. Both are vital tasks to survival. Neither is more important than the other, and neither is more valuable than the other. Clearly in modern times, the large advances in technology that have allowed less intensive work on both of those fronts have opened up the possibility to blur the lines between the gender roles.

Fast forward to contemporary times. What I typically sense from most feminists is significant hostility towards men for these past roles, hostility towards men that there are still some differences in gender roles in society. More importantly, though, what I sense is hostility that not only is there not equality between the sexes, but hostility that women aren't more equal (to borrow from Orwell).

An example of what I mean is what occurred this week with the Jian Gomeshi trial in Toronto. There was wide spread outrage at the verdict when Gomeshi was found not guilty of sexual assault. The assumption, from what I could observe mostly from what I would define as feminists, was outrage that this rapist got off. Outrage that the judge was a biased old white man who let a violent women abuser go free. There are a couple of reasons I found that reaction distasteful. Firstly, it is clear that many people had already made up their mind about Gomeshi as soon as the accusations came out. He was guilty. Now there is a miscarriage of justice because we all know he is guilty, yet he was acquitted. Secondly, there was what I would term the blatant sexist view that women in this situation are always telling the truth and men are always lying. The reality of this particular trial is that three women accused a man of sexual assault. In court there was no physical evidence of the crimes, there was only witness testimony. Then in court the witnesses all lied under oath. I ponder what a guilty verdict would mean for society, and particularly for men: that any man could be accused of assault, have the witness lie while under oath in court, and then be found guilty. Frightening. Imagine for a second if the genders were reversed. Would there be the outrage at an acquittal? To me, the outrage is representative of the feminist anger and hostility not that men and women don't have equal rights and opportunities, but anger that women aren't in control of men entirely.

The reason I am not a feminist is that I support equal rights and opportunity for men and women.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Canaries in the Coal Mine

Much has been written about this year's U.S. presidential election, and much more will be written before November. Most of what I read about it is repetitive and predictable - the obsession with Trump, the inevitability of Clinton, the party establishments versus the unconventional candidates. But, all of that is merely window dressing on the main issue, which is the state of the country itself. American presidential elections are disappointing at the best of times. Rarely do you see a candidate emerge who would actually be the best possible president for the country. The system encourages sociopathic corporate sellouts to run. And, apart from rhetoric, little changes with the elections regardless of which party currently holds the White House. There is the usual divisiveness and anger from each side and the claim that, if only their candidate could be elected and unimpeded by an uncooperative partisan congress, then American could be "great again" (whatever that means is of course widely variable depending on the party). The entire four year presidential election cycle is the very definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." 

For outsiders such as myself, it is easy to look at the candidates, especially the more clown-like ones such as Cruz and Trump, and dismiss them as buffoons who shouldn't be running for office. But, like mold that creeps into the damp corners of a bathroom, strange and idiotic politicians will inevitably emerge to match whatever strange and idiotic desires voters have. People like to blame the politicians and roll their eyes at the latest personification of insanity that the parties offer up, but really they just represent the desires of the electorate. 

So far this election is different in both the level of weirdness in the candidates but also in the longevity of the perhaps the weirdest of candidates, Trump. There have been ridiculous candidates before, but they have typically faded early in favour of more predictable and established candidates. I propose that the shift this year is representative of a shift in the electorate. A shift away from issues to entertainment. Entertainment has always been part of politics, particularly in America, but this year it entertainment seems to be dominating. Watching Trump give a speech, one is struck by his inability to speak clearly to any particular issue, and by the entertainment he offers those tuning in. Since Roman times and before, entertainment as politics is a bad sign. A sign that the issues facing the country are so dire that the people have given up hope of them being solved. One can't help but wonder if deep inside most Americans recognize that the problem of terrorism (or at least the perception of the problem, since it really isn't a significant problem at all) will ever go away. The issue of American engagement in wars in the Middle East is perhaps something Americans are beginning to realize will never end. The fragility of the economy is not something likely to turn around anytime soon, regardless of who is in the Oval Office. So, perhaps Americans are subconsciously giving up hope for solutions to these problems and are instead turning to politicians to be entertained and pacified. 

If so, this is a very dire sign for America. It is a sign that America is beyond hope in returning to any sort of economic or global greatness, at least of the sort that many Americans seem to yearn for. In short, it is a sign that the American Empire is in its final throes. The self-serving buffoons running for president this year, while odious and slimy, are nothing more than a representation of that shift. They are the canaries in the coal mine, indicating that the possibility of any real political solutions is beyond hope.