“The Adult Market”

What’s adult about forcing someone to do something she doesn’t really want to do?

What’s adult about doing sexual things to children?

What’s adult about humiliating another person?

What’s adult about hurting another person?

 

We should call it what it is.  The psychopathic sociopathic misogynist market.  The sick fucks market.

 

(I’d intended to be more specific, but I’m concerned that the psychopathic sociopathic misogynist dudes would like that.  Plus, merely describing these things repulses me.)

 

Sweet Sixteen (a short story)

 

It’s John’s sixteenth birthday tomorrow.  He’s coming of age.  His cousin, Jane, who lives just down the street, won’t come of age until her eighteenth birthday, and everyone said at the beginning how unfair that was, but truth be told, and John knows it, guys can do a lot of damage between sixteen and eighteen.

“It’s your sixteenth birthday tomorrow,” his mother had said that morning, in a carefully neutral voice.  “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know!” he’d screamed at her, as if she’d asked the question a hundred times before.  Then he stomped out of the house, slamming the door on his way out.  Standing in the middle of the yard, he’d called a few of his buddies, but they were all away.  Summer camp, vacation, whatever.  So he’d climbed into his old treehouse and sat there, alone, fuming.  It was all he could do not to kick the walls out.

 

What happened was, in 2035 organized religion finally went too far.  That might seem like an odd thing to say, given the institutionalized misogyny of Judaism what with Jewish men thanking their god every morning for not making them female, the Vatican’s decision to prohibit contraception and permit pedophilia, the routine defrauding by various Protestant evangelists, the Puritans’ tendency to cut off people’s ears and bore a hole in their tongues with a hot iron, the witch ‘trials’, the Inquisition’s habit of dislocating limbs and burning people alive, the human sacrifices of the Mayan, Inca, and Aztec theocracies, the Islamic Taliban, jihads, fatwas, burkas—

Ironically enough, it was the Americans’ ramped-up military engagement with Islamic countries that made the long-time similarities between Christianity and Islam suddenly all too apparent.  People started to see the my-god-versus-your-god subtext and were hard-pressed to prove their own god was the one true god.  It wasn’t something they were used to doing, providing support for their beliefs.

So what, you may ask, was the thing that was considered going too far?  Because really, how much further can you go beyond torture and mass murder?

It was this: the American president was not only refusing to sign anti-nuclear accords and pro-environment accords, he was actively pursuing nuclear and environmental destruction to ensure that the Biblical prophecy of the apocalypse would be fulfilled.  He would thus prove once and for all that the Christian god was the one true god.  That there would be no one left alive to appreciate such proof seemed to have escaped his notice.

Immediately upon discovering this insanity, the Scandinavian countries organized a global boycott of everything American, and, upon further thought, of everything from every country that claimed, one way or another, to be a nation under god.

The world became atheist overnight.

And then philosophy finally, finally, took its true place in society.  The ‘Philosophy for Children’ programs run by various fringe ‘wingnuts’ were suddenly mandatory.  The brave initiative in Canada in 1995 to introduce philosophy into the high school curriculum, an initiative that flashed then faded, blazed into popularity: both senior courses became mandatory not only in Canada, but also in the United States, and courses were developed for grades nine and ten as well.  At universities, Departments of Philosophy and Religion finally separated: Philosophy became a department on its own, and Religion was added to Folklore Studies or completely subsumed into invisibility in Ancient History.

And people, ordinary people, began to think.

Almost overnight, instead of hearing people talk on and on about sports, you could hear them, here and there, talk about things like how sure you had to be about something before you could say you knew it.  Epistemology in the pubs!

And without religion to issue decrees, suddenly questions of right and wrong were, well, questions.  Recourse to legal moralism was common among the lazier minds, but the presumed equivalence between law and morality did not go unchallenged.

People also talked a lot about rights and responsibilities.  It was almost as if they had been wanting to do that for a very long time, but had lacked a vocabulary.  The sudden proliferation of philosophy courses, as well as philosophy blogs, philosophy newspaper columns, philosophy talk shows, and even philosophical counselors (after all, many mental health issues are simply the result of not thinking things through clearly) gave them that vocabulary.

One of the first things to go was the right to reproduce.  “The Smiths and their Biochem Cubes” had become a staple in the grade eleven Philosophy course:

Suppose the Smiths make biochem cubes—biological-chemical cubes about one metre by one metre with an input for the resources required for sustenance at one end and an output for the unusable processed resources at the other.  Why do the Smiths make biochem cubes?  Good question.  Truth be told, the cubes are unlikely to make the world a better place.  And the Smiths don’t sell them.

Should we make allowances for the Smiths with regard to money (salaries, taxes, subsidies, etc.)?  After all, they have, let’s say, ten biochem cubes to support.  If the cubes are to stay alive, the Smiths need to provide sustenance.  They need a bigger house.  More electricity.  More food.

Should we encourage their ‘hobby’?  Perhaps even consider it respectable, a rite of passage to maturity?

Or should we censure it?  Because once their biochem cubes become ambulatory, the rest of us have to go around them in one way or another.  And when we’re all dead, the Smiths’ ecological footprints will have been at least ten times the size of those of us who don’t make biochem cubes.  (More, if the cubes they made go out and make other cubes.)

Suddenly everyone was aware of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous comment, ‘Your right to swing your fist ends were my nose begins’.  That is to say, suddenly everyone understood that the crux of the matter for rights was that, and how, others were affected.  No right was absolute because no person was an island.  Everything, everyone, was connected.  Maybe not directly, maybe not immediately, but if the change in the Earth’s climate had taught us anything, it had taught us that.

So a right to reproduce?  No.  It was a privilege.  One had to earn it.  And even so, it could be taken away.

Shortly after, the abortion question was finally seen as a simple matter of competing rights: the right of the fetus to develop versus the right of the woman to carry on with her life.

And once it was decided that the fetus’ right didn’t trump the woman’s right, that the fetus didn’t automatically have a right to develop, a right to life (why would it? just because some man ejaculated into some woman and started the process?), it was a very small step for people to realize that they themselves didn’t automatically have a right to life.  After all, everyone was just the result of some man ejaculating into some woman.  Everyone was just someone’s biochem cube.

A lot of people resisted.  They struggled to argue for a right to life, an inalienable right to life.  But there was simply no basis for it.  Absent a god to grant it.

 

John wasn’t aware of any of this, of course.  He just knew that once he came of age, he had to prove somehow that he had a right to live.  He had to be useful or valuable in some way.  You got a free ride until then, that was the deal now.  But once you turned eighteen, or sixteen, if you were male, you had to earn the right to life, you had to prove your life was worth—well, worth the resources you used, perhaps, or worth the negative consequences you inevitably caused for others.

It was easier for girls, John thought.  Jane had been useful since she was old enough to dry the dishes, standing on a stool at the sink.  She had a whole list of chores to do: dishes every day, dinner twice a week, dusting and vacuuming on Saturdays, babysitting on Sundays…

She’d even learned to play the piano.  By the time she was fourteen, she was practicing an hour a day, and the last time he was at her house, she played something by Mozart for him.  She was useful and valuable.  And she wasn’t even sixteen yet.

When John saw how good Jane was at the piano—she’d even played some retro Supertramp for him once—he decided he’d become a musician too.  So he got a guitar.  But he had no idea how to play it.  A friend of a friend finally showed him a few chords, but even after two whole weeks, it was hit-and-miss, so he gave up.  Clearly, he had no talent.  Jane was lucky, he thought, she could do shit like that.

He didn’t know why it was different for girls.  Maybe all that stuff just came naturally.  Guys were different.  For example, a couple weeks ago, he and his buddies broke all the windows at their school.  Every last one of them.  They’d had a race to see who could break the most.  And just last week they had a great time turning over everyone’s garbage.  He always felt a little bad the day after they did these things, seeing the mess they’d made, but a guy’s entitled to have a little fun, right?

It took Jane a good two hours to pick up all the stuff that had overnight blown onto their lawn.  Wads of tissue, scraps of soiled, unrecyclable packaging—  So, he thought, philosophically, he’d given her the opportunity to be useful.  Didn’t that make him useful?

Long ago, his parents had told him he had to cut the grass, but he’d said ‘Fuck that!’ and took off.  They didn’t insist.  Truthfully, they were a little afraid of him.

All the young men who in earlier times might have proved themselves useful as soldiers didn’t have that avenue open to them now.  Because now there were no wars.  Killing someone—remember, everyone had earned the right to live now, everyone who was alive had proven themselves to be useful or valuable—killing someone, taking away someone’s right to life, was the quickest way to get your own right to life revoked.

And once people started thinking, they realized that football, hockey, soccer, basketball—these things did nothing to improve humanity.  So that avenue for young men was also no longer open.  The entertainment defence for that level of sport, for that concentration of resources for sport, was tried, but it failed.  As it did for pornography.  There was simply too much violence involved—and in the latter case, too much degradation—to grant entertainment value to anyone but vicarious sadists.

Even so, at the beginning it was easy for guys like John.  On their eighteenth birthday, guys like John would just start roaming the highways picking up the garbage that littered the ditches.  But a generation later, well, the kind of people who had earned the right to live weren’t the kind of people who tossed their garbage out their car windows.

The more ambitious guys got jobs.  But jobs weren’t that easy to find now.  Certainly John couldn’t find one overnight.  And he certainly wasn’t doing well enough in school to argue that he was going to become a scholar, a scientist, or even an entrepreneur.

The truth of the matter was that John wasn’t unusual.  A great many men by the age of eighteen hadn’t done anything, not one thing, to improve life for humanity, to justify their existence.

The same was true, of course, of a lot of young women.  The ones who’d expected to get a free ride by being somebody’s wife and/or somebody’s mother.  In fact, Brittany, one of John’s classmates, would have trouble a couple years from now.  In a previous time, she may have been useful as a prostitute, but once pornography became illegal, prostitution quickly followed.  The similarities were clear, once people thought about it, but also, the demand for it decreased quite quickly.

Even so, even now, in certain cesspool corners of the world, to which John and Brittany could escape if they’d known about them, Brittany could have, would have, found herself useful.  But she’d’ve been raped to death within six months.

And then John would have discovered just how useful he could be.

John kicked at the walls of the treehouse.  Now he wishes they had, he wishes his parents had insisted.  Again, and again, and again if necessary.  That he cut the grass.  Or whatever.  It was their responsibility to make sure he was useful, wasn’t it?  They created him.  It was their fault he was in this situation!

He looked back toward the house.  Then came down out of the trees.  And went on one last rampage.

Tomorrow he’d be sixteen.

And he wouldn’t be missed.

The Trouble with Trans

1. To the extent that a transsexual is someone who experiences body dysphoria, someone who feels they’re in the ‘wrong’ body, someone who feels their body is the ‘wrong’ sex — how do they know? What is it like to feel female (or male)? I was born female, and I don’t know.   So how can they know?  It’s Nagel’s ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ problem. (1)  I know what it is to feel healthy only because I have also been sick.  I don’t know what it is to feel female because I haven’t been male.  Anything that I feel that I can know for sure is due to being female, rather than due to simply being human, is related to having a uterus (which can ache and hurt during menstruation) and breasts (which can feel heavy).

Other things subjectively felt are certainly due to my body — to its levels of estrogen and progesterone, for example, but also to its levels of dopamine and vasopressin, for example.  But given the overlapping range of levels of these biochemicals in males and females (many of which are not differentiated for males and females), again, how can one say ‘I feel this—because I’m female’?

If transsexuals feel like their exterior doesn’t match their interior, why do they (also) get hormone treatment—which will change their interior (as well as their exterior)?  Doing that suggests they want to change their sex, not that they were born with the wrong sex.  Even if sex is brain-based, and they feel like they have a female brain in a male body — it’s the brain that produces hormones.  So if they do have a female brain, it would be producing estrogen, and there would be no need for hormone treatments.

I’m not saying body dysphoria isn’t ‘real’.  In fact, I experience every day the mismatch between what’s inside and what’s outside: I look like a middle-aged woman, but I don’t feel like a middle-aged woman.  Then again, I do.  I must.  This must be what a middle-aged woman can feel like.  (Similarly, if you’re in a male body, what you feel must be male.  Maybe it’s not the male you see on billboards and television, but it is male nevertheless.) (Welcome to our world.)  When I say I don’t feel like a middle-aged woman, I’m using my personal and thus limited experience (my interaction with other middle-aged women) and I’m using stereotypes, pushed at me primarily by profit-seeking marketing departments.

But even so, in this case, I can know that my interior doesn’t match my exterior: at forty, for example, I know what I felt at twenty, so when I say I still feel twenty, I know what I’m talking about.  I could mean, for example, that my skin feels the same, even though when I look in the mirror, I see that it’s lost its elasticity.  Usually, though, I mean something like I still feel energetic and impassioned, not bland and resigned.  But this takes us back to my point about referencing limited experience and stereotypes.

What we need are thorough and carefully conducted studies of MTFs and FTMs.  Only they know what it felt like when they were male or female and what it feels like after they add or subtract certain body parts.  (To the extent that those parts aren’t connected to the whole in the same way, though, any change in subjective experience won’t be very useful.)

More importantly, only they know what it felt like when they were, for example, flooded with testosterone and what it feels like to be flooded with estrogen.  Sadly, those studies aren’t being done, as far as I can tell (which may mean they’re just not being publicized).  And even if they were, their reliability would be compromised by the nature of subjective report and a self-selected sample, both of which are likely to be further confounded by the subject’s conflation of sex and gender.

 

2. To the extent that a transgendered person is someone who adopts the gender that is traditionally aligned with the other sex, there are several problems.

If gender is socially constructed, then it’s not dependent on sex—so one need not change one’s sex in order to change one’s gender.  In fact, transgendered people don’t even need their own label.  Every woman who refuses to wear make-up and shave her legs is as much a transgendered person as the man who insists on wearing make-up and shaving his legs.  (Assuming that not wearing make-up is not just not-feminine, but is masculine.  If it’s just not-feminine, then perhaps it’s more accurate to call such a woman non-gendered.  So would a woman who wears pants instead of a dress be transgendered?  Still no.  It turns out that aspects of appearance commonly associated with men are more acceptable for women than vice versa.  Perhaps that’s why there are more men than women seeking to cross the gender divide.  Women already can, at least on superficial matters.)

And if it isn’t socially constructed—that is, if is dependent on sex, how do we explain effeminate men and ‘tomboys’?  How is it that many males use their voice and their hands in a very expressive fashion?  How is it that many females are strong and aggressive?

 

3. Are MTFs female? The answer to this question requires an informed understanding of biology, chemistry, and biochemistry that I don’t have. It also requires a definition: how much of how many (and which) primary and secondary sexual characteristics is required to be a member of that sex category?  Is a female who has undergone a hysterectomy and a bilateral mastectomy still female?  Is a post-menopausal and thus low-estrogen female still female?

 

4. Are MTFs women? To the extent that being a woman is a matter of gender rather than sex, maybe. Again, we need a definition: which, how many, how much…   And does a woman need to be a female?

Of course it is possible, by observation and comparison, to identify what it’s like to be treated as a female/woman.  I was born female, raised as a girl, and all of my adult life, treated, by most people most of the time, as a woman.  And what does that feel like?  It feels like shit.  To be patronized, marginalized, objectified…

So perhaps a more useful question is ‘Should MTFs be treated as women?’  Should we pay them less for work of equal value?  Should we mock or at least ignore their contributions to society?  If we want consistency, yes.  If we want justice, no.

On that note, it needs to be said (apparently) that how you’re treated affects the person you become.  Kick a dog often enough, and it becomes a cowering, fearful mess.  The same is true for humans: ignore a person often enough, and she stops speaking up; make her feel like all of her value is in her body, and she obsesses over it; and so on (and so on, and so on).  There is a difference between being a FAAB (female assigned at birth) and being an MTF: a lifetime lived in a female body.  That difference is not inconsequential.  To understate.  And if MTFs had any understanding at all of sexism, they’d know this.  (But perhaps they’ve been too busy dealing with their dysphoria.) (Or they’ve just been, well, men.)

So answering the question of whether MTFs are women is a no-brainer for the people who’ve been women all their lives.  MTFs make demands, not polite requests. (2)  They are quick to resort to insult, threat, aggression.  They compete.  They dominate.  They convey a sense of entitlement none of us has ever had.   They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.  They scream “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO KEEP US OUT WE HAVE A FUCKING RIGHT TO BE HERE TO GO WHEREVER THE FUCK WE WANT!”—a response to exclusion from FAAB spaces that is “right up there, ideologically, with demanding that girls and women be sexually available visually and physically, for and with men” (Julian Real, http://radicalprofeminist.blogspot.ca/2011/02/who-gets-to-define-women-only-space.html). (3, 4)  In short, it quacks like a duck.

 

In any case, perhaps the most important question is ‘Why does it matter?’ —whether one is male or female, a man or a woman?  It matters only to those who want to maintain a rigid sex/gender dichotomy.  And why would someone want to do that?  To support a sexist system/society.

So, I say to MTFs, who are apparently among those who want to maintain such a system/society, if you want to be considered a woman, act like one.  Sit down and shut up.  Understand that your opinion doesn’t count.  Be sensitive to everyone else’s feelings, respect them, accommodate them.  Don’t assume you know more than anyone else.  In particular, don’t assume you know more about sex and gender than second-generation feminists and radfems; they are Ph.D.s (in fact, many of them have Ph.D.s) when it comes to sex and gender, and no man of any kind comes close to their level of understanding: “They lost many of [their] privileges when they started identifying as women, but rather than recognising that this is because of sexism, they decided it was because they are trans. Why? Because, being male, they knew fuck all about sexism” (thebeardedlady, Nov17/09 at https://factcheckme.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/the-fallacy-of-cis-privilege/).

It is no surprise to me that twice as many MTFs as FTMs commit suicide.  I haven’t read many accounts of their transition, but in most of those I have read, I see a shocking naiveté with regard to sexism, gender politics, etc.  It is as if these people had no idea that they were voluntarily becoming a member of the sexed subordinate class.  So no wonder, on top of everything else, they can’t handle, are broadsided by, the sudden and almost complete disenfranchisement …

(So as for the dysphoria, like the person who rejects their leg because it doesn’t feel right, because it doesn’t feel like it’s theirs, isn’t it better to deal with the dysphoria than to go through life as an amputee?)   (Because yes, being a woman in the patriarchy is, in many ways, like being an amputee.  We are crippled.  We are, relative to men, dis-abled.)

Catherine, by Chris Wind

Catherine, by Chris Wind (from Snow White Gets Her Say)  www.chriswind.net

 

That you don’t recognize me by name is but the first of my complaints about my tale. Oh you know me alright. I’m the main character—in a tale titled with the name of one of the men in the story. But what’s in a name? A lot. Especially if it’s a man’s name. This man’s name is the answer to the question upon which rests the fate of myself and my newborn child. So his name is very powerful, it is very important. My name apparently is not.

Nor is my life. For whether it is to be filled with joy and delight from being with my newborn, or empty with grief and loss from separation is to be decided by a mere guessing game.

Nor are my words important. I denied my father’s boast. I told the King I most definitely could not spin gold out of straw. But he didn’t believe me. Of course not. He chose instead to believe the words of an immature, egotistic, vain man. And I suffer the consequences.

The consequences. To pay for my father’s ridiculous lie, I lose my sanity, my freedom, and my dignity for three nights—and almost my child, forever. (And one sentence—one sentence in the whole tale is devoted to that ‘choice’, that decision to give up my child in return for my life.)

Because I ‘succeeded’ on the third night, I was ‘rewarded’ with marriage to the King. Thus, for all intents and purposes, I also lost my life. Can you imagine what it is like to be married—legally bound to honour and obey until death, and socioeconomically bound with little option but to stay and make the best of it—to a man who didn’t believe me, a man who locked me in a room for three nights, a man so greedy that he said three nights in a row he’d kill me unless I did as he wanted? And that was before he owned me.

But as the tale says, I am shrewd and clever. And I have learned the force of threat, and the importance of a name—especially if it is male. Proud fathers want very much to pass it on. But royal fathers—dear husband, aging Highness, what would happen to your precious lineage if my, your, only son were to suddenly—

Since I am not dead, and am living still…

 

**

Catherine is the name I’ve given to the woman in “Rumpelstiltskin”. One day a vain and proud miller boasted about his beautiful and clever daughter to the king, telling him that she could spin gold out of straw. The poor maiden denied it, but the king locked her in a room full of straw and insisted that she spin it into gold or else she’d lose her life.

Once in the room, she began to cry; then “a droll-looking little man” appeared and, after hearing her story, offered to do it for her if she’d give him her necklace. When the king returned and saw that the straw had indeed been spun into gold, he locked up the maiden with another roomful of straw. This time she paid the little man with her ring. The third time, the king added the promise of marriage if she succeeded, but she had nothing left with which to pay the little man. He asked for her first child, and having no other option, fearing death if the king returned to find straw and not gold, she agreed.

So she was married to the king, and when her first child was born, the little man came to collect. Appalled, she offered him instead “all the treasures of the Kingdom”—but he wanted the child. Eventually he softened his terms and said that if within three days she could tell him his name, she could keep the child.

For the next two days, she guessed all the names she knew and sent messengers all over the land to gather new ones. Finally, on the third day, a messenger returned with the name ‘Rumpelstiltskin’—which was indeed the little man’s name. She was therefore able to keep her child, and everyone laughed at the little man, Rumpelstiltskin, as he made his way away.

Brunettes, Blondes, and Redheads

So the other day I started reading iron shadows by Steven Barnes.  He’s apparently a bestselling author.  Which is really disturbing.

Because four sentences in, he describes a woman as “a small wiry brunette”.  Seriously?  Does anyone actually identify women by their hair colour any more?  That’s so—1940s.  Isn’t it?  I check.  The book’s copyright is 1998.  Okay.  Guess not.  Guess the tradition of objectifying women lives on.

We don’t do that with men.  We don’t objectify them by their hair colour (or anything else, for that matter).  Their hair colour for godsake.  She’s a brunette.  Or a blonde.  Or a redhead.  As if all women with brown hair are what, interchangeable?  Because they’re completely defined by—the colour of their hair?

Not only that, but he had to mention her size.  Small.  Of course.  If she’s going to be a heroine, she has to be small.  I’m surprised he didn’t tell us how large her breasts are.

And whereas she’s small, he’s “enormous”.  Of course he is.

Could we just reverse the description with nothing odd happening, that test for sexism?  “The man, a small, wiry brunette with an ugly bruise on his left cheek, wore a yellow unisex utility uniform.  The woman was enormous, but barely conscious.”  Not only do you find it odd to hear a man called “a small, wiry brunette”, you no doubt found it a bit disgusting to hear the woman called “enormous”.

I am, goddamnit, still a little forgiving, so I read on.

But the very next woman—or maybe it’s the same woman, since the next bit happens two months earlier—the very next woman “nibbles” on dry wheat toast.  Because we can’t have a woman actually eating with guilt-free enthusiasm.

And she has “an oval face framed by a cascade of small soft blonde ringlets”.  Small again.  And soft.  And blonde.  And ringlets.  Ringlets?!

In case we missed it, “Her habit of peering out from behind them sometimes made her resemble a mischievous child peeking through a fence.”

In 1998.  And published by Tor.

No wonder women can’t get published.  As long as this insulting crap is deemed worthy.  Is bestselling.

When will men finally get it?  When will they finally get it right?

Robert J. Sawyer.  He’s the only one.  The only male sf writer who’s smart enough to create a non-sexist world.

 

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.