Saturday, October 27, 2018

Pernicious Misogyny

                                                                                                written 20 October 2018
                                                                                                published 27 October 2018

            Since the Kavanaugh hearings, a new fear story is spreading.  "Mobs of angry women" are making it dangerous for young men today.  Women ARE angry, and the spread of the #MeToo movement has created a shift in the social fabric of what is acceptable behavior.  For thousands of years, male dominance and misogyny was HisStory, taken as natural law.  But humanity is evolving, and the disempowerment of half the population is slowly eroding.  Since 1873, women in the United States can own and control property, drive cars since 1900, and vote since 1920.  But women still earn 20% less for the same work, and are adversely affected by the entitlement and fantasies of men.
            Gender violence researcher Dr. Jackson Katz, in a 2013 Ted Talk, points out how our culture frames these issues to focus on the woman.  A statement describing the action that "John beats Mary", becomes the passive statement "Mary is a battered woman", and John's behavior is not part of the discussion.  This passive voice gets applied to general statistics. How many women were raped last year, never how many men raped women?  How many girls are harassed, rather than how many boys harass girls?  These things "happen" to women.  Men aren't mentioned, and the dominant culture accepts the situation.
            Since it isn't an issue, men have no need to examine assumptions or change behavior, and are therefore mostly unaware of what is going on.  This is not the case for women.  Dr. Katz uses the following exercise to illuminate the disparity. He asks the men in the audience what they do on a daily basis to prevent being sexually assaulted.  The general response is dead silence or nervous laughter, as most never think about the subject. 
            When he asks the women the same question, they immediately share a multitude of specific daily practices: hold keys as a weapon, look in the back seat before entering the car, don't jog at night, always watch my drink even as it is poured, have an unlisted phone number, don't use parking garages, park in well-lit areas, don't get on an elevator with men, vary the route to work, don't have a first-floor apartment, go out in groups, own a firearm, and don't make eye contact with men on the street. The men in the audience are generally stunned.
            This ubiquitous oppression of women stunts men as well, locking us into a rigid definition that a man must be powerful, dominant, rationally controlled, unemotional, and Viagra hard at all times.  The qualities of compassion, empathy, and cooperation are belittled and projected onto women, when in reality all humans can have all these traits. Women have begun to claim their power and voice, challenging the status quo, which disturbs men.  A man speaking out is considered an assertive leader, but a woman doing the same is called a bossy bitch with an attitude.
            The male power structure is under assault, as it should be.  Girls and women have been afraid all their lives as a survival strategy, so for boys to feel afraid is actually the start of the conversation.  No one should have to carry this kind of fear in a healthy society.  Real leaders, particularly men, need to stand up and say misogyny is not a family value.  We must support women, not only to honor our mothers, sisters and daughters, but for the sake of our boys, to show them what it means to be a healthy man, allowed to feel compassion and cooperation.
            Unfortunately, leadership of this kind is totally lacking at the national level, which seems to revel in the most regressive forms of sexual oppression. This is a global issue, and all power structures suffer the same problem of gender oppression.  The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the imminent threat of dire climate impact is directly related to our cultural misogyny. Toxic patriarchy's domination of women has also been inflicted on Mother Earth, leading to possible near-term human extinction.  The effort to mature our gender relationships will also improve our relationship with the planet, allowing humanity a future.
            To view Dr. Katz's Ted Talk, go to:, and search for Jackson Katz.

Saturday, October 20, 2018


                                                                                                written 13 October 2018
                                                                                                published 20 October 2018

           By the narrowest margin in 140 years, the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, creating a conservative majority: the conclusion of 40 years effort by the Federalist Society to establish corporate dominance. Since few voters support this oppression, they use extremist Catholic views on abortion as a moral rallying cry, ignoring the corruption caused by such constipated sexual attitudes. 
            Being a man, I naturally have an opinion.  Abortion is the killing of a potential human: that is the point. "Killing" and "potential human" lead to further consideration.  "Thou shall not kill" is one of the Ten Commandments, but humans can't live without killing something to eat.  When Ram Dass was asked why it was okay to kill a carrot and not a cow, he said the carrot didn't scream as loud.  
            Even though we value humans more than other lifeforms, society kills people all the time.  Sometimes using judicial process and the death penalty, sometimes a cop goes into the wrong apartment and shoots the owner by mistake.  In some states, if a person feels threatened, the law allows them to kill in "self-defense".  The lucrative, taxpayer supported, American weapons industry, the largest in the world, creates products designed to kill people.  Exported to the rest of the planet, people, even children, are killed indiscriminately.  The justification for these killings is rarely discussed, and are sometimes only financial.
            The youngest premature baby to survive was five months in the womb. Until then, the mother is essential for survival, and therefore has a unique stake in the process, independent of any human law.  At puberty, a woman has about 300,000 eggs, of which only 0.1% may actually ovulate, and a man will produce as many as one billion sperm in one ejaculation.  Most of these potential humans are destined to die unfulfilled.  Fertilization is not achieved by the first sperm to arrive.  The egg is involved in selecting which sperm is accepted, because life is pro-choice.  Once fertilized, less than 50% come to term.
            Consequently, I consider a fetus a "potential human".  Christian zealots attribute personhood to the single cell at the moment of conception, with rights separate from the mother.  Following that reasoning, any assault on the developing fetus must be prosecuted.  Any company manufacturing and distributing teratogenic (fetus harming) chemicals in the air, food, or water, should be tried for assault and possibly murder.  Anyone causing undue stress to the fetus, including poor lifestyle choices by the mother, should be tried for assault.  This would create a large, intrusive, and expensive social program.
            Our culture expects that a pregnant woman is responsible for safely bringing a child to term and paying to support and raise it.  If a woman decides she can't, or won't, take on that obligation, she should have the option to choose, as the quality of life of the child is at stake.  If society decides to eliminate that choice, then the taxpayers are obliged to take responsibility for the child.
            The self-proclaimed "pro-life" movement considers only the quantity of life, not the quality.  This isn't pro-life, it's pro-birth, and they should properly be called "birthers".  Birthers insist every child be born, without taking any responsibility for the quality of life that child will endure, a misogynistic urge to punish women for having sex.  
            Quality of life for mother and child is one of the main reasons a woman considers having an abortion, a personal moral issue between herself and her God. In my lifetime, the world population tripled.  Choosing smaller families increases the quality of life for the individual family and helps the entire planet.  Educating women improves the quality of life for the whole society, so women need to be able to defer childbirth, and plan for parenthood.
            A healthy society would insure that every child be wanted and loved.  Birth control is superior to abortion as a method to achieve this, but the same birthers who are opposed to legal abortion also fight against affordable access to birth control and prenatal care.  They prefer unplanned parenthood, treating pregnancy as a punishment.  Ironically, the Federalist Society judges who self-righteously destroy quality of life for real humans, religiously defend the legality of fake corporate personhood. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Myth-perception #2 - Survival Of The Fittest

                                                                                                written 6 October 2018
                                                                                                published 13 October 2018

            The second myth-perception discussed in "Spontaneous Evolution", by Lipton and Bhaerman, is "survival of the fittest".
            Unlike religious dogma, scientific dogma changes as new experiments and observations bring greater understanding, but cultural limits and individual egos, slow that process.  There is a joke that the eminence of a scientist is measured by how long they hold up progress in their field.
            Charles Darwin published "The Origin of Species" in 1859, a theory of biological evolution through slow, random mutation and natural selection. This became known as "survival of the fittest".  Charles Lyell, a distinguished geologist of the time, whose book "Principles of Geology" established the entire field, was an influential supporter of Darwin. "Uniformitarianism" was one of Lyell's assumptions, positing that all geologic changes are gradual: tomorrow will be very much like yesterday.  Influenced by the prestige of the older scientist, Darwin included this linear assumption in his theory of biological evolution, assuming slow, gradual changes.
            Alfred Russel Wallace was another scientist studying biological evolution at the same time as Darwin.  The two shared ideas and information, but Wallace's theory differed slightly. First, he didn't insist that changes were entirely random, but suggested they were guided by an intention toward survival.  Second, while Darwin focused on the survival of the fittest, Wallace focused on the failure of the least fit.
            Imagine a herd of gazelles running from a cheetah.  While the fastest one does survive, so do most of the rest.  Wallace pointed out that it is the slowest that gets eaten.  Instead of looking at just the quality of the best, Wallace looked at the qualities and strengths of the entire herd.  In Darwin's world, we struggle to become the "best", while in Wallace's world, we cooperate to improve the entire species.
            Darwin is well known, but most people have never heard of Wallace. Darwin was upper-class with rich supporters, as science was a rich man's game at the time.  Wallace was lower class with no important advocates. "The Origin of Species" was rushed into print after decades of procrastination, just before Wallace could fund publication of his own research, thus insuring Darwin's place in history.
            The subtitle of Darwin's book was "The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life".  Capitalists of the time embraced this idea to justify their belief the rich should rule, and Darwin's "survival of the fittest" was recast as "survival of the strongest", in eternal lethal competition.  Herbert Springer created the concept of social Darwinism, emphasizing the harsher implications of Darwin's theory, and encouraged the notion the elite must purifying the race through purge of inferiors.  The extreme of this became the social program of Nazi Germany.
             As time moved on, biologists learned that "survival of the fittest" was more complicated than just running the fastest.  "Fittest" became understood as the best relationship with the larger environment, where each species has a niche, within which they thrive.  Rather than fight within themselves, they adapt and evolve, sometimes abruptly, to modify and better fit their particular environment, thus surviving the changes of life.  At first, the fittest was seen as the species that captured the most energy and resources from the environment, relative to other species.  That turns out to describe an immature ecosystem, or a very young species.   We now know that in a mature, or climax ecosystem, those species that cooperate with the most other species to gather and share energy and resources survive the best. Cooperation is a sign of maturity and superior "fittingness" within the larger environment.
            These two visions, one of lethal competition, and the other of shared cooperation, are now playing out within humanity.  Trump's narrow vision of America First, and his withdrawal and disdain for global organizations, plays well with his base, but is bankrupt economically, sociologically, and environmentally.  The non-dual perspective recognizes the world is massively connected, and only cooperation will have a chance of addressing the global issues confronting us today.  We are now experiencing an evolutionary challenge to evolve, similar to the jump from competitive one celled to cooperative multi-celled organisms.  As Lipton and Bhaerman conclude, we are being called to mature from humans to humanity.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Republicans On Record On Rape

                                                                                                written 29 September 2018
                                                                                                published 6 October 2018

            Republicans have worked for decades to appoint a Supreme Court majority to insure extremist "Christian" social values and corporate dominance. They held up Obama's Supreme Court choice for more than a year, and are now rushing consideration of Justice Kavanaugh before the midterms.  But the hurried confirmation process has been upset, and the FBI will investigate allegations of sexual misconduct, including attempted rape, by three women.  Rather than taking the time to make sure about this candidate, who is appointed for life, Republicans accuse Democrats of unfair scrutiny over past "misdeeds".  
            For decades, Republicans leaders have minimized rape allegations, trivializing the accuser.  On March 25, 1990, Clayton Williams, gubernatorial candidate in Texas, said this about rape: "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."1  But rape is not about sex.  It is about misogyny: power and domination over women.  Rape has often been discussed within the issue of abortion, as even people who are generally opposed to abortion feel there should be an exception for cases of rape or incest.  But Republicans are opposed to those exceptions, based on pervasive fiction.
            April 20, 1995, North Carolina State Representative Henry Aldridge said: "The facts show that people who are raped - who are truly raped - the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work and they don't get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever."2
            1998, Arizona State Senator Fay Boozman said: "It is rare for women to get pregnant during rape because their fear triggers hormonal changes that block contraception, God's little shield."3
            March, 2008, Pennsylvania State Representative Stephen Freind said: "The odds that a woman who is raped will get pregnant are one in million and millions and millions ..... the traumatic experience of rape causes a woman to secrete a certain secretion that tends to kill sperm."4  
            August 19, 2012, Missouri Congressman Todd Akin said: "If it is a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down."5
            March 1, 2013, California Assemblywoman Celeste Greig said: "The percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it's an act of violence, because the body is traumatized."6  
            June 11, 2013, Arizona Congressman Trent Franks said: "Because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy is very low."7
            February 25, 2016, Idaho State Representative Pete Nielsen said: "I'm of the understanding that in many cases of rape it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident."8  
            This Republican anti-science bias is in conflict with the real world, where 1 of every 20 rapes produces pregnancy, around the same rate as consensual sex.  But if a woman is unlucky enough to find herself in that 5%, Republican values, masquerading as "Christian", further traumatize her.
            April 5, 2011, Idaho State Senator Brent Crane said: "The hand of the Almighty is at work.  His ways are higher than our ways.  He has the ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples."9
            January 20, 2012, Pennsylvania Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum said: "The right approach is to accept this horrible created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless ... a gift of human life, and accept what God is giving you."10
            August 20, 2012, Arkansas Governor Mike Huchabee said: "Even those horrible, horrible tragedies of rape... life has come and sometimes, you know, those people are able to do extraordinary things."11 
            October 23, 2012, Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said: "When life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen."12  
            February 5, 2015, West Virginia State delegate Brian Kurcaba said: "Obviously rape is awful.  What is beautiful is the child that could come from this."13
            May 4, 2016, Missouri State Representative Tila Hubrecht said: "Sometimes bad things happen -- horrible things, but sometimes God can give us a silver lining through the birth of a child."14  
            Like "thoughts and prayers" offered after every mass shooting, these comforts don't include any real support or legislation.  This consistent Republican stance on rape is one reason for the gender gap for the GOP.  For some reason, women don't buy this.
            Quotes gathered from