Feminism and equality

I’m all for equality. As Trivium declares, rather strongly:

Equality for every race, sex, sexuality,
And every choice to live our lives,
And to you bigot cretin, ignoramus,
Mind your own god-damn, fucking business

Therefore I tentatively support feminism. I say tentatively because, at times, it seems to move from promoting the equality of women to becoming anti-male and, at times, dangerously irrational. I do have a few recent examples about where I think feminism has moved away from equality and where I can no longer support it.

I’m not sure how many people saw the story about a little girl’s photo getting Tesco to remove a sign in their toy aisle. It seemed to get a fair amount of coverage with headlines like “Little Girl Fights Gendered Toys One Look of Disgust at a Time” by Jezebel and “Girl Challenges Store to Remove Sexist Sign — and Succeeds” on Yahoo!

Photo that got Tesco to remove the sign.

As they point out there is plenty of questionable behaviour with regard to gender and toys which does need to be addressed. However, I also see a difference with saying that there needs to be a greater variety of toys or less gender-specific marketing and calling such a sign sexist.

The most questionable aspect of a sign says “fun gift for boys” is the idea that an alarm clock is fun. To consider such a sign sexist is just wilfully misreading the sign. If the clock is a fun gift for both girls and boys then it is logically correct to say that it is a fun gift for boys. There is nothing in that that excludes any other groups that it might also be fun for. If the sign had said, “fun gift for only boys” then that would have been sexist.

It does not make sense to read the sign as saying that the clock is exclusively for boys. If that were the case we should expect to see these same people complaining that the “black lives matter” placards, carried by some demonstrators in the US after the killings by police, are racist. I do not doubt some people think they are but I highly doubt that those are the same people who think the sign is sexist.

If those that called the sign sexist were truly consistent they would presumably have issues with almost any advertisement. Party hats that are “great for birthdays” would draw complaints from those planning an office party and chocolates “for your special someone” would be insulting to all single people. I don’t buy into the argument that that would not be discrimination because those groups are not a minority. If a shop in America turned away customers because they were white or Christian that would be just as much discrimination as if they turned away blacks or atheists.

There’s also this example of how the Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer book is supposedly sexist. The title of the book is certainly misleading but, while there are many things to criticise about it, sexism is not one of them. It might be entertaining to go through the criticism paragraph by paragraph and point out the multiple flaws but that would take too long. I will focus on a few issues though. At this point it will make more sense if you have read the link.

What the fucking shit, Barbie?

This is where you assume Skipper will be like, “Oh, why do you need boys? We can do it ourselves! Let’s learn and work hard and do things all on our own because a sense of accomplishment and knowledge are powerful weapons for adulthood.”

Putting aside the surprising amount of anger for so soon we can immediately see the problem. “Why do you need boys?” This follows through the entire commentary of the story. It’s not that Barbie needs to get help but that she’s getting help from boys! Yes, it might be more inspirational if Barbie learns to do everything on her own but the world is complicated and that can’t always happen. If you’re going to do a project like making a game you’re pretty much going to need help from someone at some point and who you go to should be decided by their aptitude in the relevant skill, not by what’s inside their pants.

Hey, where did you go? Oh, I see you. You’re on the floor, face down, having given up. Yeah, we did that, too. Is it because it took two girls to reboot a computer?

Making a big deal out of nothing. Two people near one computer that’s not working. It’s hardly surprising they both investigate what’s wrong. If I were with a male friend and his computer had an issue, I would also give some advice and take a look if it didn’t restart immediately.

Are you still on the floor because Barbie wears a flash drive around her neck?

I didn’t realise wearing a flash drive around one’s neck was such a terrible thing to do. If Barbie needs a flash drive to transfer her files and wants to keep it close, what’s wrong with around her neck? My first USB came with a lanyard and, when I recently did some long distance travelling, I had copies of important documents on a USB I wore around my neck! Furthermore, I’m going to do that again when I go from Germany to Austria next year. It’s not a big deal.

Barbie gets told how to do something, so what do you think she does next? That’s right. Go find some people with the expertise to fix her computer.

Okay, she didn’t say that. She was more worried about their genitals then their ability to help. Recently, I needed advice on what hardware to buy. I didn’t go asking people’s sex before getting advice, I just posted on a forum and waited to see who could best provide it.

Barbie I Can Be A Computer Scientist

“I want this thing to start a meme of girls screaming, ‘I don’t need a Brian or a Steven!’”

This is the same anti-man aspect from the beginning that I find troubling. Yes, there were also sorts of issues with the story and a total lack of initiative on Barbie’s part but those all take a back-seat to “Argh! She asked men!” I don’t think that is as empowering as they do (there were two people’s views in the post).

What I took away from them is that women must know everything, even though that is completely unrealistic and will probably just demotivate them as they fail to live up to an impossible standard. A better message would’ve been knowing your strengths and weaknesses. If Barbie is a good designer then she should design, find a good artist to do the animations or pictures and find a good coder to programme it. The other message seems to be, if you absolutely must ask for help (and it’s more than a little implied that you’re a bad person for doing so) then you had better not ask a boy. It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re the best person to ask or not because doing so would be to completely betray your gender.

It would be one thing if this was just about signs and people angry if you ask for help from someone with a different complement of chromosomes but at times the anti-male sentiment becomes dangerous irrational. To see that you should read Emily Yoffe’s excellent, and lengthy, article on college rape over-correction. She also writes a pretty decent Dear Prudence column which is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine.

It’s a very necessary article in the US at the moment as it shows how badly college rape accusations are handled. Firstly, they shouldn’t be investigated by a college or university, they should be handed over to the police. That aside, rape is a serious accusation to make and yet it is dealt with with an exceedingly low standard of evidence; guilt only needs to be 51% certain. Judging by the evidence she presents, the statistics on the so-called scourge of college rape are completely overblown and have lead to a particularly unfair situation for men. For example, as is pointed out, these cases nearly always put the blame on the man when both parties are drunk. It’s not that rape is impossible when both parties are drunk but it should also be recognised that both parties have reduced consent and the man is no more taking advantage of the woman than she is of him.

To see a particularly extreme case of a double standard, and blatant disregard for evidence, we can look at this piece on Yahoo! It talks about the various inconsistencies in Rolling Stone’s story about the University of Virginia rape case and how post traumatic stress could result in incorrect memories. We shouldn’t forget that, even without post traumatic stress, eyewitnesses are not good sources of evidence. After describing how testimony can be unreliable, it’s quite a shock that the story concludes with:

Sadly, Rolling Stone’s retraction may fuel those who insist that women who claim to have been raped are lying; it reinforces that a woman’s word alone is not enough.

The woman’s word is never enough! No one’s word is enough for a crime, especially when you’ve just outlined how unreliable that word could be. That flies completely in the face of evidence-based thinking. That doesn’t mean that an accusation like that should just be dismissed. It should be taken seriously and it should be investigated by the appropriate people, which, for rape, is the police. That investigation will turn up other evidence which will either support or discredit the accusation and it is the only weight of evidence that is enough to make decision of guilt or innocence.

False accusations do occur. Mistakes do happen. People’s memories are not 100% accurate. That is why we investigate, that is why we say “innocent until proven guilty” and that is why we need evidence from multiple sources. If you have an eyewitness saying a man walked through her wall and stole her necklace off the dresser in the middle of the night and footprints leading to and from a ladder propped against her window, which are you going to believe? I’m going to believe the physical evidence over the eye witness.

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