Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bring Back the Matriarchy

Pay close attention. There will be a quiz at the end of this post.

So, don’t just revel in the entertainment value of these bizarre human customs. Thanks to Janice Zarro Brodman’s new book  Sex Rules: Astonishing Sexual Practices and Gender Roles Around the World we now know more about the sexual customs and gender roles that are practiced around the world. Just in case you thought that feminists were chasing rainbows, it turns out that the world they envision still exists… somewhere.

In a bow to French president Emmanuel Macron, the Apanyekra-Canela indigenous community of Brazil arranges for teenage boys to have sex with many women, but only women who are beyond childbearing years. As you know, in our own Puritanical culture, when an older woman chooses to initiate a teenage boy into the mysteries of sex she will be facing hard time. How can you not see that as a new way to repress female sexuality?


“[They believe that] horny young guys should get it on with women in their late 40s and 50s. Sex with older women will make him strong and courageous, while sex with a young woman — even his wife — will make him weak and nervous.”

If a man should stray from this belief and hook up with a female his own age, he is “shamed and hazed before the whole village,” and is forced to “walk down a line of dancing women, all laughing and teasing him.”

As for how this makes him strong and courageous,  your guess is as good as mine.

And then Africa’s nomadic Wodaabe tribe has its own special customs. In an amazing role reversal men are made to compete in beauty pageants for female attention. Consider it an exercise in male pride.

There, the Post explains:

“Women are free to have sex with anyone they wish” and often pick their partners from the tribe’s popular beauty pageants — which feature men on display. For the guys, the preparation is lengthy and painstaking.

“First, shave your hairline way back,” Brodman writes. “Then smooth a layer of red clay all over your face. Carefully apply thick black eyeliner and black lip paint. Draw a white line down the center of your nose so it will look even longer than it is. Slip into your finest embroidered tunic, [then] pop on your headdress of ostrich feathers and horsehair.”

During the pageant, the men are expected to dance for the women, including having to “vibrate [their] throat, lips and mouth, roll [their] eyes to show how white they are, flash those pearly teeth, while stretching on tiptoes into the air like a bird.”


 Culture: The Wodaabe believe bright eyes, white teeth and a sharp nose make a man beautiful - and the make up enhances these beatures

If you are seeking true gender equality, you can move to Indonesia and join the Tau Tau Wana tribe:

Meanwhile, the Tau Tau Wana of Indonesia believe more in gender equality than female dominance, but their version of equality would have many guys running for cover.

“They figure men and women are the same and everyone should get to do everything,” Brodman writes, “including having periods.”

The way Tau Tau Wana men “get” their periods is not for the squeamish, Brodman writes: “They go through rituals that slice the penis, which bleeds to make them mature, just as a woman’s periods do for her.”

One might argue, after famed Swiss sociologist J. J. Bachofen that these practices show a more natural and more original human condition, one where women ruled in a primal matriarchy. One might also argue that these practices lend credence to the views of Friedrich Engels, who followed Bachofen by suggesting that this primal matriarchy (and the joys of female sexuality) had been repressed by the patriarchy through the institutions of private property, the family and the state?

Has it been downhill ever since? Do we need a revolution, as Engels suggested, to overthrow the patriarchy and capitalism? Is that the only way that women will get back in touch with their sexual power?

Someone who believes that the most primitive organizations are the truest ones might accept such beliefs.

Otherwise, you will find a better answer to today’s quiz question: What do all of these communities have in common?

I am sure you have already guessed. They are all hopeless;y primitive and are probably on their way to extinction. If they have not been overrun by neighboring enemy tribes, it’s because they have nothing worth plundering.

So, if you are dreaming of a feminist paradise where women are in charge, where men are whining and mewling, you will have to ask yourself how many of your creature comforts, how much modern sanitation, how many modern conveniences, how much of your lifespan, how much of the internet you would be willing to give up in order to see men menstruate?
These men are forced to menstruate and dress up as women
These men are forced to menstruate and dress up as women

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Open Relationships

A young woman meets a man. She had already been traumatized by a series of men who had dumped her, so her confidence was not exactly in the clouds. So, she met a wonderful man and engaged in a wonderful loving relationship with him. I know, it already sounds a bit mushy, but, hold on.

After a few months he announced that he wanted to sleep with other people. Presumably, that means other women. But that he still wanted to continue his relationship with the woman who calls herself Just Not Enough. He was willing to accord her the role of main squeeze. If we are to believe Ask Polly, open relationships are something of a thing among sophisticated urban professionals.

Today’s letter writer explains her situation. When her boyfriend told her he wanted to sleep around she told him to take a hike. Can you blame her? And yet, she is dogged by the feeling that she was just not enough. She is in therapy and what good is therapy if it does not teach you to beat yourself up for someone else’s bad behavior. Because, after all is said and done, the man in question treated with extreme disrespect.

Just Not Enough writes:

Several months ago, after a long string of 30-year-old guys dumped me unceremoniously after our fourth dates (you could pretty much set a watch to it), I met someone I adored, and who I’m pretty sure adored me, too. He was a brilliant listener, open and kind, had a great career, a sense of humor, and an affection for me I’m not sure I’ve felt before. But a few months in, he told me he needed to see other people. He wanted to see me, too, but he said there had always come a point in his relationships when he wanted to sleep with other people, and now he needed to make a lifestyle shift, and would I like to be his primary partner? He told me all this in a fog of emotion after I opened up a what-are-we-doing-here conversation; he got shifty, quiet, had a hundred weird other reasons not even worth repeating, cited his depression, said he didn’t know who he was or what he wanted, exactly, but that he had to try this. It’s funny, because in the hours and days before this happened he told me that what we had was incredibly special and rare, that he felt “understood” by me and that he hadn’t felt this way in a very long time, and also that the sex was better than any he had before. Anyway, I said no. I didn’t want an open relationship. It pained me then and it’s killing me now, but I couldn’t do it, especially not when the decision felt so fear-based and not before we had a chance to build a basic level of trust.

My therapist told me that we can give my now-ex credit for being honest about the fact that he needs to be with other people. Okay: good for him. Credit where credit is due. But as much as I am trying to applaud his resolution, I don’t understand it, never having had real issues being loyal to anyone (even to the wrong people). And what’s more, it makes me feel horribly inadequate.

Because the truth is I wasn’t enough. He needed more. More what? More sex, I guess, despite what we had getting a pretty glowing review. More conversation, maybe, even though he said he felt he could tell me anything. 

More beauty? I’m not Miss America, but I’m not an ogre, either, and that seems like a dumb reason for a good guy to bolt. Until everything fell apart, this man looked me in the eyes and told me how much he cared about me, and I could see — am I crazy?? — I could see he was beginning to fall for me. I felt so safe, and then it was over. He seemed 100 percent in, until he was out. I’ve come a long way as a woman, a human, in the last few years, and I think I know I am enough. But still I feel like I wasn’t. He needed something, someone, more….

I looked at him and saw a big, beautiful mess with a million jagged edges, but also someone who naturally made me peer into the future, and who made the future look like a place that didn’t seem so scary. After a difficult 20s and a long string of disappointments and a lot of hard work and a few losses and a few gains, I look at myself and I think: I contain multitudes. Aren’t multitudes enough?

Just a quick thought here. Of course, it's better to discover this now, rather than later. Better to discover his character flaw now, not later. And also, what happened to anger? Why should she feel that there is something wrong with her? Why shouldn’t she feel that there is something wrong with him and that he has treated her appallingly badly? Why is her therapist giving him credit for being honest instead of letting her feel angry for being mistreated?

I will spare you Polly’s paean to romantic love and great marital sex. In another context it would be called: too much information. And yet, she informs us us that open relationships are the plat du jour in some of our urban centers.

In her words:

We happen to be living in a moment when lots of young urbanites believe that open relationships are the way and the light. There’s this very common notion that sex always gets very old with the same person, and once that happens you’re fucked, so why not structure your life differently? Young people regularly talk about monogamy like it’s this trick that the Man plays to get the sheeple in line, or it’s some dying gasp of a conservative, religious world that had yet to be emancipated by the infinite choices and glories of Tinder.

Free to be used… liberated to be one of several mistresses… is this what women’s liberation was about? Why are sophisticated urban women accepting these conditions? Is monogamy really a patriarchal conspiracy? If it is, are women accepting open relationships because they can now have sex with all the men they want?

Strangely enough, or not, neither Just Not Enough nor Polly considers that the new arrangements will allow women to have more sexual partners themselves. Could it be that this is not what women want?

The Opioid Crisis

Today, our legislators are debating the issue of health care. Among the more difficult problems is how to pay for the treatment of the massive number of people who are suffering from opioid abuse.

By now we all know that the opioid epidemic was visited on the nation by pharmaceutical manufacturers, physicians and the federal government. It is an astonishing story, but, what is being done to shut this down? Apparently, not very much. Is anyone going to be held accountable for what appears to be drug trafficking? Apparently, not.

Cathryn Jakobson Ramin has written a new book, called Crooked, that examines the problem. Within her discussion of her own experience with back pain, Ramin explains how we got to this point.

In her words:

In the first five years that OxyContin was on the market, Purdue Frederick, the pharmaceutical company that had launched the drug in 1996, conducted over forty national pain management and speaker training conferences. Physicians who were willing to spread the word could expect to make up to $3,000 for telling their colleagues, often at lavish dinner meetings or continuing education medical seminars, why Oxy worked so well for them. The strategy could not have been more successful; in record time, ordinary musculoskeletal pain, long understood to be a normal part of life, was recast as an enemy to be battled and subdued.

For decades, physicians had recognized that opioids were highly addictive drugs, and that to prescribe them to any patients other than those who suffered from terminal cancer was illegal. But with Oxy, the tide had turned: suddenly, physicians who allowed patients to “suffer needlessly” from back pain were labeled as lacking in compassion. For general practitioners, who found themselves with “failed” back surgery patients entrusted to their care, OxyContin offered an answer to their prayers.

And then, the federal government protected everyone:

Under pressure not only from the pharmaceutical business, but also from physicians who wanted to be sure they had the federal stamp of approval for this rampant prescribing, the Joint Commission declared pain to be “the fifth vital sign,” adding it to measurements of pulse, blood pressure, core temperature, and respiration. This would turn out to be a grave error. The standard vital signs were readily quantified—either they were normal, or they were not—but only the patient could identify his pain level. Nevertheless, the Joint Commission directed all accredited US hospitals and health care facilities to instruct personnel to monitor pain and to provide compassionate care. In the Joint Commission’s monograph, published in 2001, the organization noted that “in general, patients in pain do not become addicted to opioids.”

And so did Bill Clinton:

Even the DEA climbed on board, signing an agreement with 21 medical professional societies that allowed doctors to prescribe the drugs without fear of prosecution. If physicians had lingering doubts, and some did, these were dispelled in president Bill Clinton’s last weeks in office, when he signed legislation declaring the upcoming decade, 2000 to 2010, to be the Decade of Pain Control and Research.

New York Magazine has reported on a recent study that showed that opioids are not just being prescribed for chronic pain. They are being given to patients having psychiatric conditions. How many prescriptions for opioids are written for anxiety and depression? The research says that the number is 50%:

The study’s researchers (led by Brian Sites, a professor of anesthesiology and orthopedics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine) also found that adults with anxiety and/or depression were more than three times as likely to use prescription opioids as those without: 18.7 percent versus 5 percent, respectively. While some people with anxiety and depression undoubtedly suffer chronic pain, these disorders may make it difficult for patients to accurately rate their own suffering — whether because the pain is made more acute by the mental illness which accompanies it, or because the patient is less able to cope with that pain.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Sites said that while someone without anxiety or depression might report their pain level “as a two out of ten, someone with mental-health disorders — depression, anxiety — may report as a ten out of ten.” This disparity between the overprescription of opioids and the undertreatment of mental illness makes for a dangerous correlation — and with a gutted Medicaid budget, it’s likely to get worse.

Have a nice day!

Traumatized for Life

Today we learn about an irreversible trauma. A female teacher inflicted it on a male student in Missouri.

The perpetrator, who has just been arrested, is high school substitute teacher Loryn Barclay. She is 24. Her victim was 17. The stories do not tell us whether or not he was in a class she taught.

The Daily Mail details the brutal traumas that Barclay forced the boy to suffer:

Loryn Barclay of Washburn, Missouri, allegedly had oral sex with the teen in his car and on multiple occasions between November 2016 and January 2017 at his home in while she worked as a substitute teacher at Monett High School in Lawrence County, reported The Monett Times.

She also reportedly admitted having intercourse with him twice at his home, said the outlet.

On Sunday, she was charged with six counts of sexual contact with a student in two counties.

Think of it. She traumatized him in two counties.

One hopes that with counseling the boy will recover. For your edification, here’s evidence, in the form of Barclay’s mug shot.

Loryn Barclay, 24, is charged with six counts of having sexual relations with a student 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Atheists Brook No Dissent

We take it as an article of secular faith that atheists are more open minded. Many professed atheists cling to their beliefs because they want to show the world that they reject all religious dogmas in favor of science?

We accept, unthinkingly and unknowingly, that the religious adhere to their dogmas while atheists, rational to a fault, are more open to alternative perspectives. After all, religions—some of them, at least—have notably conducted inquisitions to rid themselves of heretical beliefs.

On this topic history has been flashing a few warning lights. What was totalitarian Communism but an effort to transform cultures and make them more godless? No atheist will accept that Communism represents the goal he is seeking. And yet, people who claim to be empirical thinkers cannot dismiss the Communist effort to atheize culture. If you only accept the evidence that seems to prove you to be right, you are not thinking empirically or scientifically.

If atheists hold up British or American culture as their role models, they will have to recognize that those cultures were based in religious principles. They were not founded or constructed by atheists. As David Hume famously noted, ethical thinking does not and cannot come from science. Science is about is, he said, while ethics is about should.

Communist cultures brooked no dissent. In truth, they perfected the arts of brainwashing and indoctrination. The notion of thinking differently, of entertaining different opinions, was anathema. They wanted to create a culture where everyone thought the same thoughts, believed the same beliefs and felt the same feelings. In the past certain religions aspired to achieve the same goal, but today, those who yearn most avidly for groupthink tend to be atheists.

Today’s masters of political correctness-- dare we note that they are inevitably atheists-- are keeping dogmatism alive. They label differences of opinion as hate speech. They shut down people who hold divergent points of view. 

If you do not think as they think you will be shunned. If you think that this is an anomalous condition, limited to faculty lounges, you should note that in Silicon Valley, in Hollywood and in the San Fernando Valley, saying that you voted for Donald Trump will cost you work. It will make you unemployable. For the record, the San Fernando Valley is the epicenter of the American pornography industry. If you are in porn, you should not to speak well of Trump. Link here. Call it, news you might not want to use.

Some religions have more dogmas than others, but most religions also have widely divergent opinions about nearly all matters, theological and otherwise. Obviously, there are limits. But, a journey through the arcana of theology will show you vast differences of opinion. Thomists and Franciscans and Jesuits are all good Catholics. But, they certainly do not think the same thing.

Now we have a scientific study of the issue. Conducted by scholars from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, the study showed that atheists are, ounce for ounce, more intolerant than the religious.  They are more narrow minded and more incapable of accepting different points of view.

True enough, atheists believe that they are more open minded. Yet, when you poke beneath the surface of the atheist mind, you will someone who is more, not less bigoted than someone who follows a religion.

PsyPost summarizes the results:

New research indicates that religious believers can be better at perceiving and integrating different perspectives than atheists in Western Europe.

“The main message of the study is that closed-mindedness is not necessarily found only among the religious,” the study’s corresponding author, Filip Uzarevic of the Catholic University of Louvain, told PsyPost.

The research was published April 27, 2017, in the peer-reviewed journal Personality and Individual Differences.

“The idea started through noticing that, in public discourse, despite both the conservative/religious groups and liberal/secular groups showing strong animosity towards the opposite ideological side, somehow it was mostly the former who were often labeled as ‘closed-minded’,” Uzarevic explained. “Moreover, such view of the secular being more tolerant and open seemed to be dominant in the psychological literature. Being interested in this topic, we started to discuss whether this is necessarily and always the case: Are the religious indeed generally more closed-minded, or would it perhaps be worthy of investigating the different aspects of closed-mindedness and their relationship with (non)religion. ”

The researchers found that Christian participants scored higher on a measure of dogmatism than nonreligious participants. The Christian participants, for instance, were more likely to disagree with statements such as “There are so many things we have not discovered yet, nobody should be absolutely certain his beliefs are right.”

On one score, Christians seem more narrow-minded. They believe that most truths have already been discovered. Yet, the question feels unnecessarily vague.

Does it refer to moral principles or to scientific fact? One might argue that the moral precepts discovered, say, by Aristotle, Confucius and the Bible have not been significantly modified or superseded over millennia. One might also argue that science is making new discoveries every day; the book of science is certainly not closed.

As the researchers dug deeper they discovered that atheists were more closed-minded than the religious:

Atheists tended to show greater intolerance of contradiction, meaning when they were presented with two seemingly contradictory statements they rated one as very true and the other as very false. They also showed less propensity to be able to imagine arguments contrary to their own position and find them somewhat convincing.

Intriguing, don’t you think?  Atheists are more intolerant of contradictory statements. They are less likely to engage with people who hold different opinions. They prefer to dismiss differing opinions as extreme.

Is there something about atheism that entices people into extreme positions? Is there something about this exercise in pseudo-rationality that deprives people of the ability to think differently? Is there something about  atheism that tends toward the dogmatic and that makes people incapable of considering alternative points of view.

Perhaps they should all take a course in the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas. While Catholic theology has room for the Platonist Augustine and the Aristotelian Aquinas— whose views often diverge—today’s atheists reject all dissenting opinions, even those that are based on scientific fact.

To offer some obvious examples, the nature lovers among us, nearly all of whom would reject the least whiff of religious reasoning, will tell you that if you do not accept their view of climate change you are a denier. They will not engage your point of view, or even the point of view of experts like Richard Lindzen. They will dismiss you as an extremist or bigot. And they will accuse you of trying to exterminate the human species. People will die… they will intone.

Any atheist who holds to the dogmatic truths about transgenderism will quickly dismiss the work of eminent physicians like Paul McHugh and Lawrence Mayer as so much bigotry. They refuse to engage with dissenting views. And, since the Bible tells us that God made human beings as man and woman, then God must be a sexist bigot. Again, dissenting or even differing opinions about these articles of today’s secular dogma are not allowed to be contradicted. Atheists brook no dissent.

Is it fair to say that these practitioners of extremism are all atheists? At the least, they believe themselves to be at war with religions and with any other system of moral thinking that contradicts their dogmas.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Are You Man Enough... To Be a Nurse?

This is probably not the most shocking thing you are going to hear today. While male unemployment is high jobs are going unfilled because men do not want to do them. Better yet, their wives do not want them to do the jobs. And those who hire people for the jobs do not want to hire men. Those who do the jobs do not want men as colleagues either. I am talking about care giving jobs, like nurses and home health care workers.

Naturally, Susan Chira attributes it to stereotyping, but does she know better than the men, their wives and their prospective colleagues? At the least, she ought to respect the views of the women who live with these men.

Yet, as Chira presents the case, the feminist vision of male nurses and male home care workers fades into oblivion. Gender interchangeability is just another dumb idea… one that takes permanent leave from reality.

Chira opens:

Traditionally male factory work is drying up. The fastest-growing jobs in the American economy are those that are often held by women. Why not get men to do them?

The problem is that notions of masculinity die hard, in women as well as men. It’s not just that men consider some of the jobs that will be most in demand — in health care, education and administration — to be unmanly or demeaning, or worry that they require emotional skills they don’t have. So do some of their wives, prospective employers and women in these same professions.

Notions of masculinity have developed for reasons that have everything to do with human nature. Why is that so difficult to accept?

A sociology professor who sets her straight:

Ofer Sharone, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has studied middle-aged white-collar professionals who have lost their jobs. He found that some men who might have been willing to consider lower-paid jobs in typically feminine fields encountered resistance from their wives, who urged them to keep looking.

“Marriages have more problems when the man is unemployed than the woman,” Professor Sharone said. “What does it mean for a man to take a low-paying job that’s typically associated with women? What kind of price will they pay with their friends, their lives, their wives, compared to unemployment?”

That may be, he said, because other sociologists have found that while work is important to both men’s and women’s identities, there remains a difference. “Work is at the core of what it means to be a man, in a way that work is not at the core of femininity,” he said.

Clients do not want to hire male caregivers, either. Perhaps they have bathed in the ambient culture, the one that demonizes men as repugnant abusers. Perhaps they understand that men lack the genetic make-up to be good caregivers:

Sherwin Sheik, president and chief executive of CareLinx, which matches caregivers with families, said that many clients remain suspicious of male home health care aides, worried about abuse or sexual predation, and convinced that women will be more caring.

And, of course, women who work in what have traditionally been women’s professions do not want a lot of men around:

Men can also face resistance from their female peers. Jason Mott, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, said some of his male students were teased by their female classmates. “They feel they need to really express their manhood, stressing the athletics they take part in,” he said.

Nursing offers a perplexing case study. In theory, nursing should appeal to men because it pays fairly good wages and is seen as a profession with a defined skill set. Yet just 10 percent of nurses are men, despite “Are You Man Enough … to Be a Nurse?” posters and other efforts to enlist men.

Of course, it’s all a messaging problem. You want to attract men to nursing, you need more posters about how only a man who is man enough can be a nurse. 

Women know better. They are not rushing out to marry male nurses. Men whose manhood has been compromised by such occupations often believe that they need to become more macho than thou, more aggressive and more violent… to assure themselves and their prospective mates that they are really man enough.

If women do not want it, we should respect their views.

Why Relationships Fail

Consider this a footnote on yesterday’s post about “Why Marriages Fail.” You recall that Harvard professor Alexandra Killewald’s research showed that women were more likely to walk away from marriages when men were not breadwinners. That is, when men became the kind of male beings that feminists have told them to become.

Fortuitously, New York Magazine has just written up a case study of a relationship that failed because the man did not make enough money. (via Maggie's Farm)

Carly is 38, with a five year old son. She has her own business and barely makes ends meet. Jackson is 37, without children, but who loves her children. They have a great rapport and great sex. Yet, Jackson has no real ambition and does not make much more than he needs.

Carly said:

 It felt great having a boyfriend. A giant weight was lifted off my shoulders because I had someone to talk to, someone to rely on, someone who fit with me and my son. Plus, the sex was incredible. It was kind of picture perfect, despite the untraditional-ness of it all. I guess the only issue from the very start was that Jackson didn’t have a stable job. He’s a super-talented photographer, but his work was a little unsteady. If I’m being honest, I thought maybe there was family money, and I hoped for that only because it meant I could stay with him forever. I didn’t want to be with someone who couldn’t contribute; I knew that would only lead to resentment. But there wasn’t family money …

He was not going to be a breadwinner. End of relationship.

To be fair and balanced, Jackson offered his own viewpoint:

I didn’t make the kind of money she wanted me to, which bothered her way more than me. I feel like I’m lucky that I have a rent-stabilized apartment and work that I enjoy. In my eyes, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t provide for her or her son. Love, affection, adventure. I was devoted. Dollar signs weren’t a thing as far as I was concerned.

Carly’s response:

It started to annoy me, big time, how little he worked, how rarely he thought about money or ambition. He’d do the littlest thing, like maybe smoke a joint with my friends, and I’d just boil over inside. Like, “You fucking stoner deadbeat!” Meanwhile, all my friends were also smoking and I’d be like, “Cool, love you guys.” But I was conflicted — he and my son had gotten so close and there was so much I loved about Jackson too.

But, Jackson has work/life balance:

She wanted to change this very innate quality about me, which is that I’m not driven by money. I’m not materialistic. I don’t need fancy things. I just need good people, creativity, inspiration, honesty, a beautiful woman, a cold beer on my front stoop …

I would have done anything to make it work, except get a terrible, soul-crushing job. And that was the only thing she ever wanted me to do. It got real ugly. She’d yell at me about everything. I went from this man she wanted to raise a child with to someone who couldn’t do anything right.

Carly saw it as “the Urban Cowboy thing” and she refused to make it a part of her life. As opposed to what we read in therapy columns, this account shows a good dose of responsible adult reasoning. 

"Another Soul-Sucking Disappointment"

Democrats thought they had it won. They were convinced that they would win Tom Price’s Congressional seat in the Georgia runoff election last week. They were wrong. They lost. Now is the time for soul-searching. Because, if Democrats are good at anything, it’s soul searching.

While not the first to weigh in, Maureen Dowd has gotten her groove back in today’s column:

The Democrats just got skunked four to nothing in races they excitedly thought they could win because everyone they hang with hates Trump.

If Trump is the Antichrist, as they believe, then Georgia was going to be a cakewalk, and Nancy Pelosi was going to be installed as speaker before the midterms by acclamation. But it turned into another soul-sucking disappointment.

I’m not so sure what the Antichrist has to do with cakewalks—shifting narratives—but Democrats were persuaded that young attractive centrist Jon Ossoff would easily beat Karen Handel. He didn’t. He didn't even live in the district.

Dowd contacted Rahm Emanuel, to learn how to win elections:

“We congenitally believe that our motives are pure and our goals are right,” Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, told me. “Therefore, we should win by default.” But, he added dryly: “You’ve got to run a good campaign. In elections, politics matter. Oooh, what a surprise.”

Apparently, Rahm has forgotten the other rule of politics: when you have power you have to govern effectively. The man presiding over the killing fields of Chicago, within a state that has been bankrupted by years of Democratic governance, does not serve as a role model for effective governance.

If Democrats do not think that it matters, they are living in their own fairy tale. Dowd explains it well:

Democrats cling to an idyllic version of a new progressive America where everyone tools around in electric cars, serenely uses gender-neutral bathrooms and happily searches the web for the best Obamacare options. In the Democrats’ vision, people are doing great and getting along. It is the opposite of Trump’s dark diorama of carnage and dystopia — but just as false a picture of America.

True enough, there is enough dystopia in districts that voted for Donald Trump. That’s why they voted for Donald Trump. But, if you are looking for a real dystopia, put Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago on your itinerary.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Self-Sabotage

Again, the letter the frustrated woman writes to therapist Lori Gottlieb is far more interesting than anything Gottlieb has to say. 

As often happens in these letters, we are deprived of most relevant information, condition that makes up prey to Gottlieb’s efforts to shoehorn the woman’s life into a psycho narrative. And thus, to ignore the woman's question?

For your edification, I provide the letter written by a woman who calls herself Frustrated:

I am divorced with two kids, and trying to date in the age of “swiping.” It’s hard. But for the first time in years I fell for someone … hard. The feelings had been intense from the beginning but also very recognizably mutual. All the basics you could hope to check off in the list of desirable dating traits were checked. Prior to this guy I had “dated” guys that would really just consist of a month or so of texting with about three dates total. None of them ignited an emotional connection like this last guy. But with the other guys, I could always tell when the guy was about to call it quits. I learn people and read people’s behaviors so I can tell when something is off and the level of interest has dissolved. My gut has never failed me when it comes to this stuff.

With the most recent guy, I started getting a bad feeling about a friend that he used to date, but he swore they were just buddies. He was forthcoming about his friendship with this girl, but I found it very strange that he would talk all the time to this person and hang out quite frequently. It made me uneasy. I have severe trust issues. He knew this. And he put a lot of effort into reassuring me that there’s nothing going on between them. I tried very hard to trust him. I wanted to trust him.

But I couldn’t shake my suspicions about their friendship. And so I became (secretly) obsessive about trying to figure out if they’re hanging out and how often they’re talking.  It was like I knew deep down that maybe there was unfinished business between them and I was looking for any evidence to prove myself right.  It caused me so much stress and anxiety. There very well could have been nothing going on, but my gut was telling me otherwise.  I had that feeling you just can’t shake that something isn’t adding up.  I think ultimately he sensed that this would probably be an ongoing issue, so he ended things stating that feelings weren’t mutual, which is contradictory to everything he had been saying to me and how he treated me until that moment he broke up with me. 

I think my biggest concern is that I don’t know how to get over the urge to read into everything to “prove myself right” when I think I’m being wronged.  It worries me that I will self-sabotage any future relationship.

We are all impressed to see that Frustrated has already bought the psycho narrative about self-sabotage. Apparently, she has already had some experience of therapy and has learned to blame it all on herself, on her tendency to self-sabotage.

We will note, for the record, that we do not know how old she is, how old her children are, what she does for a living, how old her paramour was, whether or not he had children and what he did for a living. We do not know what she brings to a relationship and what the man in question was bringing. Without knowing any of this we are flying blind. It does not bother Gottlieb, who flings a blizzard of psychobabble about self-sabotage. 

Again, by the terms of the letter we are not dealing with a human being who has a life. Nevertheless we ought to respect her question and address it directly. 

Frustrated was dating a man and became suspicious of his relationship with an ex--. The man was open and upfront about the ex--. He talked with her all the time and told Frustrated about her all the time. So, Frustrated became suspicious. Her instincts told her that something was off, that he was not over his ex--.  Would any sensible adult have drawn a different conclusion?

True enough, Frustrated says, nothing might have been going on, but her “gut” told her otherwise. I am not a fan of going with your gut, but I confess that I respect her intuition. We do not know whether her ex— and his ex— were making the beast with two backs, but that is not the point. The man was obviously unavailable. He might have been pining away for his ex--. His ex—might have been married or engaged. She might have rejected him. At the least, he was not fully engaged in his relationship with Frustrated. His level of commitment was not the same as hers. To anyone who is not a therapist, this is almost self-evident.

For all we know, his distance might have had nothing to do with Frustrated. Since we do not know whether he was married or not, whether he had children or not, how old he was, what he did for a living, we cannot judge whether he had other reasons for his distance.

On one point I do agree with Gottlieb. We would like it if Frustrated trusted her instincts. Failed relationships, relationship traumas will certainly undermine one's ability to trust and one's reliance on instinct. Under the circumstances it’s best to consult someone who is more objective. She would do better to indulge in endless bouts of introspection or exercises in overpriced storytelling. She ought to learn how to look at the situation objectively, with all relevant facts in hand. This will tell her whether she is judging the situation correctly or is distorting it. Of course, being suspicious seems perfectly reasonable here. It tells us that she is not willing to rely solely on her gut.

In this case, I think that Frustrated was right. I think that her suspicions were giving her a sense of the reality of the situation. As a rule, women have very good intuitions about such matters. But, how does it happen that a female therapist does not respect Frustrated’s intuition, her take on the situation? It’s a sad state of affairs when a woman, pretending to offer therapy, disrespects another woman.


Why Do Marriages Fail?

Why do marriages break up? Does it have anything to do with shifting gender roles? Are other economic variables playing a decisive role?

Last year Harvard sociology professor, Alexandra Killewald, published an important study on the topic. It has been reported by Jon Miltimore at the Intellectual Takeout blog (via Maggie’s Farm.)

Killewald considered three options:

A core unresolved question is how trends in marital stability relate to changing family and economic circumstances. Have wives’ greater earnings power and work experience increased divorce by reducing the costs of exiting bad marriages? Are strained household finances associated with heightened risk of divorce? Or do spouses’ work and earnings patterns alter marital stability by conveying signals about whether each partner is fulfilling the implicit, symbolic, gendered terms of the marital contract?

Are more people getting divorced because it’s cheap and available? Or do they opt out of marriage because of financial strains? Apparently not. The most significant factor was that men had not fulfilled their roles as breadwinners. You will note, as we all do, that this role has supposedly been rendered obsolete by women’s liberation. And yet, apparently, a man’s failure to support his family will lead even liberated of wives to seek a divorce. Or perhaps a man who is not a breadwinner will be more likely to stray. 

Killewald explains:

…the strongest evidence for the gendered institution perspective is that, for marriages begun in 1975 or later, divorce is more likely when husbands are not employed full-time. Consistent with my hypotheses, there is no evidence that this association is weaker for later than earlier marriage cohorts. Just as male breadwinning has remained important for marriage formation (Sweeney 2002), the results here demonstrate its enduring importance for marital stability. The results are consistent with claims that bread-winning remains a central component of the marital contract for husbands (Nock 1998).

Many feminists will respond that it just shows how entrenched sexism is. Other, more rational folk, will conclude that people who ignored traditional roles paid a price for it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Trump to Xi: Toughen Up!

No sensible adult is going to defend all of Donald Trump’s tweets. Yet, no sensible adult should reject them all out of hand.

Case in point: Trump’s tweet regarding China and North Korea. Isobel Thompson at Vanity Fair calls it mystifying. It is anything but.

Following the death of Otto Warmbier, Trump tweeted this:

While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!

This tells us that Trump asked China’s president Xi for help in dealing with North Korea. And it says that the Chinese president agreed to do so. There is nothing wrong with pursuing a diplomatic solution to the problem with North Korea. It  beats the alternatives. Surely, it is more diplomatic than making threats. 

Now, Trump is saying that President Xi may have oversold his ability to influence the regime in Pyongyang. The subtle and ironic jab at China, wrapped in compliments, suggests that if the Chinese expect more from America they will need to do better with North Korea. After all, the whole world is watching. That is what it means to send the message via tweet instead of via back channels.

If China wants to be recognized as a world leader, it should honor its commitments and deal with its vassal states. Your move, President Xi.

Trump is not telling Xi what to do. He is not condemning him. He is saying that China’s president is embarrassing himself on the world stage, looking weak next to North Korea, and that Trump hopes that he can do better.

Thus, Trump is leaving Xi a way to save face and is putting Xi on notice that he expects more than a good effort. The tweet is sophisticated, diplomatic and subtle… apparently too subtle for many observers. Don't these readers understand irony?

Deal Breakers

We all know why relationships fail. We know all about the several kinds of abuse—physical, emotional, verbal, sexual—and we imagine that, high on the list of deal breakers is: adultery. Let’s not forget the possibility that your beloved turns out to be a pathological liar, a criminal or a drug addict. He might have some truly unsavory habits—like a fascination with child pornography. Or he might chronically keep the toilet seat up.

Thus, we have been taught to think of it in terms of drama. When relationships fail we assume that something dramatic happened, something that can make its way to the small screen in a movie of the week.

But, life is not all about drama. Or, at least, I hope that yours isn’t. Life is about little things, about small stuff that can make or break an observation. So says Judith Newman in a recent article. In most cases Newman is talking about how a woman understands in a blinding flash of insight that she must exit her relationship. Perhaps she is talking about tipping points. Perhaps she is talking about something as gauche as calling your beloved, in a moment of passion, by someone else’s name.

Newman is not talking about abuse and she is not even talking about personal habits—like bad personal hygiene-- that make an individual insufferable. She writes:

I’m not talking about the kind of differences that make life with someone clearly incompatible: smoking, different concepts about hygiene, profound religious or political schisms. I mean the differences that may, from the outside, look like mere quirks—but turn out to be anything but. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that small discrepancies in style can indicate much larger ones in substance.

To be fair, Newman does not offer a grand theory about why this should be. She does not say that the women should or should not do what they are doing. She accepts their actions and respects them. It’s perfectly reasonable and perfectly fine with me. One does best to suspend one’s critical and theory-making faculties long enough to examine the evidence, dispassionately and objectively. And to recognize that, in the world of dating and mating, whatever makes sense to you is good enough for me. 

In her own case, Newman walked out on the love of her life over a movie. In Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, a man tells his friend that it is better to murder his mistress than to risk her exposing their affair to his wife.

Newman’s paramour found the reasoning cogent. Newman ended the relationship:

I left because the man who had me as his mistress believed a man who murdered his mistress acted rationally. Call me old-fashioned, but that was a deal-breaker.

But, in most cases she is not talking about something quite that profound. She received messages from women who have broken up with men because of ridiculous tube socks, bow ties, lame tattoos and ugly gym bags.

Perhaps we are dealing with a habit that represents the tip of an iceberg… something small that signifies something much larger. Heck, it might be taste in books. In the interest of gender equity, Newman offers a man’s response:

“For me, the horror is discovering that an adult I’m interested in is a huge fan of Harry Potter,” says my friend Spencer. “I mean, go to the movies, if you must. Read the books to your kids.  Go to Harry Potter Land at Universal, see Daniel Radcliffe naked in Equus, anything, just don’t gush about what great literature these novels are if you’re over 21.”  Recently Spencer met a woman who seemed great for him in every way—until the HP subject popped up.  She’d read all seven.  “I wish she’d just lied to me,” he sighed.

And then there are repugnant verbal tics. They are not repugnant because they are obscene, but because they are so completely out of context:

Similarly, there are those were entirely sunk by using or misusing words repeatedly. “Ciao” turns out to be, for some, a devastating irritant. Ditto the promiscuous use of LOL. And “dude.” As one woman put it, “If I wanted to hear ‘dude’ in every other sentence I’d date 13 year olds.” Another friend told me she had to break up with someone when she couldn’t get him to stop saying “ekcetera ekcetera ekcetera.” Was she dating Yul Brynner, I wondered, but then I discovered it was the mispronunciation that set her teeth on edge. “Why was it so hard to learn ETcetera?  WHY?” she asked.

Newman’s friend Lynn Snowden Picket has her own list of deal breakers:

Her deal breaker?  “A man who ordered a crèche of wine instead of a carafe, and when I told him he’d just ordered his wine in Jesus’s manger he said, `Oh, I’m a writer, I play with words.’” She fired him as her date not so much for the wrong word, but for being a pretentious git.

Why the concern with restaurant manners? Try this: if she continues to date him and finds herself out in company with him, she risks being mortified by his behavior. No one really wants to be attached to someone who is going to make her look bad in front of family, friends or colleagues. It’s all about status and standing, about prestige and good behavior. Most women will not risk being humiliated by a date or a lover or a husband who likes to pretend that he is a teenager.

And then there are mistakes that people make in bed. This one is NSFW:

“I was with this new man, and we were having a fantastic time,” said my friend Lily.  I was really losing myself in the moment when he looked up from what he was doing and said, “You likee?” And that was it. I knew he would never be in my bed again.” At first I thought Lily was being ridiculous; after all, wasn’t it nice that the guy was trying to please her? Then I remembered an incident in my own life when, at a distinctly inopportune time, the new man I was with shouted, “Yee-haw!” Maybe this would have been ok if he were a cowboy.  He was a plastic surgeon.

Call these epiphanies, moments where a woman recognizes that the man she is in bed with is not really there… that he is recollecting a past experience or reliving a prior casual encounter. It’s roughly like calling her by the wrong name.

Sometimes, the deal breakers involve gender identity. A man who does not do manly things can be dismissed for being insufficiently manly. What does or does not count as manly changes with geography:

Often these deal-breakers are critical signifiers of masculinity or femininity.  “I won’t date a man who doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift,” says Kristen K. To those who grew up in cities, where cars are not really erotic symbols of much, this makes no sense. But Kristen, who grew up in Kentucky, was adamant that a man who couldn’t drive a stick shift was not a real man. (To me, that position would be taken by a man who didn’t know how to litigate, but then I grew up in Scarsdale.).

Surely, this is far better than embracing or rejecting a prospective lover or even a spouse on the grounds of hotness or coolness… depending on your age.

So, Newman’s message is to sweat the small stuff. If you are thinking about spending a lot of time with someone, it’s a good idea to be on the same page, or better, for both to be present to the relationship:

Taste matters. Style matters. And sometimes they matter more over the years, not less. To those of you on a first date to that Broadway musical that makes your heart soar:  If he’s sighing and looking at his watch, pay attention.

It's not so much that he's bored with the play-- most Broadway musicals are boring-- but that he is bored being with you. If he cannot suck it up to enjoy sharing an experience with you, look elsewhere.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Like a Scared Little Girl

It wasn’t very long ago that newby Senator Kamala Harris made a name for herself by trafficking in bad manners. Sitting on Senate panels, questioning administration officials, Harris distinguished herself for being unable to shut up long enough for the witnesses to answer her questions. For her efforts she was twice, or was it thrice, rebuked by the committee chairman.

The Feministocracy rose up to defend Harris against this egregious instance of manly oppression. Some practically nominated her as the next Democratic candidate for the presidency. She leaned in; she refused to be cowed; she showed how tough and strong she was when facing manly men. She stood up to the patriarchy.

But then, last week Harris was given an opportunity to take a stand against misogyny, to take a stand against Islamist oppression of women. She was part of a Senate panel, from the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, convened to interview victims of Islamist oppression. What did she do? You guessed it. She said nothing. As in, nothing. She did not even ask a question. She shrunk into the corner like a scared little girl.

As for other three female senators on the panel, it was the same story: the silence of the feminists. North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill shrunk into their own corners, for fear of offending Islam. Senator McCaskill managed to pipe up that the hearing was offensive to Islam.

Neither she nor Harris found  anything offensive in the fact that witness Ayaan Hirsi Ali suffered genital mutilation and a forced marriage. Not one of the women senators found anything objectionable about any of it. They stood up for Islam. Another witness Asra Nomani had been threatened with death for having had a child out of wedlock. About that the brave Senator Harris had nothing to say.

Hirsi Ali and Nomani wrote about it all in a New York Times op-ed. They explained:

When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.

Of course, it’s raw hypocrisy. But it also shows that terrorism works. It shows that terrorism threatens, intimidates and silences women. Even women senators. During the last election many people seemed to understand that Hillary Clinton, like Angela Merkel, was not tough or strong, but was weak. Even if they thought that Donald Trump was more bluster than power, they preferred rolling the dice with a man rather than take the risk that a woman in power would shrink into the woodwork, like a  scared little girl.