Sunday, March 28, 2010

Holy Cow

Never loved you enough to trust you,
We just met and I just fucked you,

, Eminem

You give me fever, when you kiss me

Fever when you hold me tight

Fever in the morning

Fever all through the night

, Peggy Lee

There she is, Miss America

There she is, your ideal

The dreams of a million girls

Who are more than pretty

--There She Is, Miss America,

Wayne Bernie

She’s a very kinky girl,

the kind you don’t take home to mother.

She will never let your spirits down,

once you get her off the street

, Rick James

I'm a slave for you. I cannot hold it;

I cannot control it. I'm a slave for you.

I won't deny it; I'm not trying to hide it.

--I'm a slave 4 U
, Britney Spears

Sunday homily: Redemption and penance

This is the part II of debunking the myth of parity for women, or "Why We're NOT in Afghanistan" ["Everyday Housewife" was Part I.]

Allow me to re-visit the arc of last year's improbable diva, Susan Boyle. I feel it encapsulates nicely why we are not the ones to show the world the way to treat our distaff side.

For those who say, "
WTF does this have to do with war?" -- I beg your indulgence. It has to do with societal lies and willing suspension of disbelief, the behaviors which allow for your current wars.

Homely and hirsute, 47-year old "never-kissed" songbird Boyle encapsulates every trope used when we think of women (and underdogs, in general). Boyle, slow-witted and frowsy, harrumphed onto"Britain's Got Talent" stage and won acclaim for staying on-note singing wistful tunes of a life that might have been
(I Dreamed a Dream, Memories) and audiences swooned on key.

Ms. Boyle prostrated her shapeless self before a reality-show audience, only to be met with the predictable howls of execration when she wagged her over-sized female bits in an attempt at sauciness. Before the first strains began, she was pilloried, and the circus delighted in her pro forma humiliation.

Moments later came redemption for Boyle as she stayed on key and did not provide the expected embarrassment of matching a homely voice to her homely exterior.
The erstwhile executioners sought insta-penance via their leader, judge Simon Colwell, who allowed, "You are one special lady, I have to say, you really are." Why special? Because you're such a loser, and you took our ridicule, and you actually did what you came to do, despite all the rotten fruit we threw at you. You beat the odds. Brava!

Brave because when you are a women past your gravidity and have sprouted a moustache, you should remain safely ensconced behind your council house door with
your cats and clean the chancery in quiet, when others have left and need not be exposed to your doughty self. And that is what it is to be a Susan Boyle: One stays in her hermitage or risks diminution every day of her life.

If you're a train wreck and sing a melancholy self-deprecating tune while we heckle you, we might throw you some fish. It was
modern minstrelsy, so apt was face to tune. We will accept you because you are operating within your metier, and are the perfect exemplar of what our society will allow for women of your station.

In the ultimate and yet predictable deliverance and penitence, Ms. Boyle's Christmas album became the top-selling debut album of any female recording artist
[Boyle: 4th Week #1 (Guardian), Susan Boyle, Top Seller, Shakes Up U.S. CD Trends (NYT)]. But the heavily Photoshopped cover says it all, really, for who would wish to open a box and see the actual frowzy Susan staring at them?

Packaging sells, and so the face we see is divested of its double chins, facial hair
and Don King hairdo. The non-real Susan looks a bit coquettish, even minx-like!

This is what we like from our women. Showered with a little positive
regard, the once-hulking, androgynous Susan has blossomed, such is the mythology of the collective ego we enjoin. All a woman needs is a bit of love, and the glow of being transformed into a member of the group of -- as a male associate once crudely put it -- "well-laid women" will show in the blush on her cheeks.

But Ms. Boyle's glow was created by retouching, and her adulation was shallow, as it hung or fell on the Next Big Performance. When she showed herself a bit
addled on a You Tube (Foiled by You Tube), the mediocre Regis Philbin, himself the champion of mediocrity, was quick to gambol about in a Halloween costume crucifixtion of the underling's one-time darling.

We loved her for what we perceived as her facing down of our relentless condemnation of an ugly woman who dared to make us listen.
We are intrigued when our perceived lessers attempt to transcend their societally-constructed bounds, as we anticipate their tragic fall.

The news saturation was complete, from the Wall Street Journal to the entertainment rags.
Every major news outlet gushed with admiration at the heroic march (Desperately Seeking Susan (NYT); Dream Over: Boyle Finishes Second in Talent Contest (abc); Improbable Star Falls Just Shy of Apex (WaPo); "Susan Stuns Again with 'Memory'" (Reuters) ...)

Reader "Cheron" left the following late-night comment on HuffPo's, "The Untold Susan Boyle Story":

"It's 2am here in Saskatoon Canada and I happened upon this video....feelin g all down and freaken sad because its my 59th birthday this day I heard Susan Boyles audition and I smiled the hugest has hope again because one lady out of nowhere had a dream come true!!" [sic]

Sorry, Cheron -- but your life will be no better just because Ms. Boyle stayed on key. You are still 59 and alone on your birthday in Saskatoon -- Susan Boyle will
not save you from your facticity.

Society will not be any kinder to you when you develop your double chin and turkey skin neck (see Ephron's, I Feel Bad
About My Neck). You will have lost your value in the marketplace of appletinis.

Susan is a joke, but we feel magnanimously toward her. We are implicated in the misogyny which is the subtext of her accolades.
"Wow -- a dowdy sow like that can sing?" What an amazing surprise.

I resent the pretense of our adulation, because Ms. Boyle is really NOT fine as she is; she could be better. Susan is, what the mountain people might call, a bit "quare". Deprived of oxygen upon birth, she is a "slow learner" according to her brother. And this may be the reason she presses on in the face of otherwise insurmountable odds and humiliation.

If Ms. Boyle were instead some pneumatic and tanned Malibu surfer, we might say, "Eh, nice voice." But stupendous, rock-my-world outstanding? Meh. As Simon
would say, "Next." Because no one believes that her better days are behind her, whereas everyone believes that Ms. Boyle has seen better days; probably never even had them. And we share a conspiratorial collective guilt in her marginalization. Our hypocrisy and our schadenfreude roars. She was good, but not that good.

Susan's flip-side is no less the object of derision -- the Baby-Boomer Cougar, whose every plastic need is catered to by a booming cosmetics industry. But you know what
you are: An old broad who can afford the nips and tucks, and who is no better than your sugar daddy contemporary.

In fact, you have it worse, 'cause you need to
get the wrinkles between your augmented breasts ironed out every four months. We all know how he gets the arm candy, and you, too. Did you think Trump got Ms. Maples because of his boundless good looks and coiffure? Not.

Oh, and war.

Well, marketing is king. We are told Afghanistan is about liberating women being trampled upon. Meanwhile, over 1,000 women are
murdered in domestic violence scenarios annually in the U.S., and over 200,000 are raped (according to latest NOW statistics).

In the Army itself, 3,000 female troops were raped last year by their fellows. From Time this month:

"The Pentagon's latest figures show that nearly 3,000 women were sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2008, up 9% from the year before; among women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number rose 25%. When you look at the entire universe of female veterans, close to a third say they were victims of rape or assault while they were serving — twice the rate in the civilian population (Sexual Assaults on Female Soldiers: Don't Ask, Don't Tell.)

The WaPo's opinion writer Parker exemplifies our hypocrisy. In
A Revolution Named Zahra, Parker writes, "[I]n Iran as elsewhere in the Muslim world, violence against women -- as well as against homosexuals and others considered inferior according to the mullahs' masculinist standards -- isn't only permitted but justified with religious doctrine." Our patriarchy doesn't do much better.

We are not being honest with ourselves. See Susan on the street, you would think, poor broad -- chunky, doughty -- not gonna find a man. Sturdy, a
good charwoman, perhaps. We don't believe that humans are equal. We would not have jeered and then guiltily bent over backwards singing her praises if we did. We wouldn't have airbrushed her album cover.

Christianity implies equality and brotherly love. But if anyone believed it,
bias and hatred and violence would go out the window. Because a God who understands the essential equality of living beings could not countenance such foolishness on any grounds.

I'm not saying ugly women get stoned, but they do get marginalized, ridiculed and abused.
Even the pretty ones meet with abuse, so it is the fact of being female that allows for the abuses of paternalism.

We are the second sex still, and though there are some wonderfully evolved people in every society, I do not buy that we in the U.S. have the moral cachet to
export a healthy acceptance of women to any society.

Nope -- our passion for liberating women is not justification for our presence in Afghanistan, despite the claims of many members of the military.


  1. How depressing to read the sad little story of another suicide-by-celebrity. There's really no "hero" here, from the poor woman desperate to be special by belting our sappy tunes to the tawdry venue she picked to the spinmeisters and flacks who leeched off her.

    I would just comment that, first, I have no brief with the laughable notion that we invaded any part of central Asia to get "rights for women". We invaded central Asia for our own Great Power reasons; if central Asian women benefit it will be because of their own efforts and not through any deliberate effort of our own.

    And, second, that if there is any parable here in the wretched little story of the ugly duckling who sang like a swan (my opinion - your mileage may vary...) it is in that in both the cases of Ms. Boyle and of central Asia we, the collective we, the Western public we, saw not what was there but what we wanted to be there, what we needed to be there to feel good about ourselves.

    Somewhere there's an aphorism that says that we pay dearly for everything we believe in and act upon that is not true.

  2. Lisa-

    You have definitely made a "Please don't get me started" post. Thus I'll just say "Thanks" and add a hearty agreement.

  3. Nail on the head with the Boyle thing.... hopefully she made some money out of the deal.

    Read something recently about the US being ok with Sharia Law coming to Afghanistan... not very good for women.... and it is quite clear that women in Iraq had a far better deal under Saddam...

    Good times!

  4. A NYT piece a while back called the contrivance for what it was (Fishing for Red Herrings, Moles and Terrorists):

    "The soaring sweetness of Miss Boyle’s voice, coupled with her homely appearance, raises goose bumps the same way that Paul Potts, the portly Welsh cellphone salesman, did two years ago when he sang Puccini’s 'Nessun dorma'"

    How dare this 300-lb. salesman have the temerity to even know about an aria called Nessun dorma"? It is almost as though these staged reality shows are a Special Olympics for the rest of us, showing us that people are more than their skins.

    Rather than "being blown away" by these people, as are the flash mob communities surrounding the unlikely celebrities du jour, I am saddened by the indictment of our own superficiality and cruelty.

  5. Lisa,
    These venues are exceedingly cruel and sadistic , as you so well point out.
    To all- this essay was prompted by USMC Squad Ldrs assertion that we were doing such a great job of liberating women in theater.
    Nice work Lisa.

  6. When I was a young Marine Squad Leader, I was always looking for free women.

    forgive me - I couldn't resist. What's really sad, however, is that the kid was probably told that he was really liberating the women.

  7. What more would you expect from a society bred and born on superficiality, shallowness, and the pursuit of all things meaningless and passing?

    It is who we are by nature...human beings.

    If only we could be more than what we have limited ourselves to...we could be many times the better people that our imaginations have fooled us into thinking that we currently are.

    Sad really...the more I think about how different things could be the more I wonder how much further down the shitter we have to go before we decide we have gone far enough.

  8. Lisa-

    Interesting post, and I agree with a lot of what you say, but I'll be the dissenting voice here. I don't think you make your case, that is if it concerns linking the 2010 version of US misogyny with "our patriarchy" or "abuses of paternalism".

    Why quote Eminem? What connection could he have: what exactly would be the Hip-Hop connection to the grey-beards? How exactly would that work? ;

    Also consider the view from the outside, what people around the world see on TV . . . Who exactly is on the judges panel for American female beauty today . . . ?

    Tyra Banks, some other ex-models and a bunch of gayguys?

    I think the "patriarchy" went out in 1969.

  9. seydlitz: I think that the ability of the old white guys who wield much of the power and wealth in Western society to be open and aboveboard about their power and wealth went out in 1969.

    The actual "patriarchy"? Alive and oh-so-well.

    So long as the sort of things that Lisa lists and discusses are the default mode for our society we have a lot to work on. And that's really what it is - a work in progress.

    Are we better off than we were? Yes. Are we better off than perhaps 80% of the rest of the world where the law and the fist rule what a woman can do and be? Yes. Could we still do better?

    Hell, yes.

    As for the poor jarhead that got all this started, as far as I can tell about 95% of the snuffies have been told their fighting for God and right and democracy and decency for so long that they really truly believe it.

    Let's not forget that every German landser that we fought against between 1941 and 1945 wore a belt buckle that proclaimed Gott mit uns!".

  10. I'm not arguing that there is no oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy, nihilistic confusion in individualistic garb to be exploited by corporate interests operating behind the facade of an increasingly corrupt state . . . or a wide variety of more basic bait and switch scams, but an elite based on notions of gender domination? Some sort of ideology being the defining characteristic of this elite?

    On the other hand, what did Idiot Bush wiping his hand off on Clint's shirt in Haiti say?

    "Bubba'll always be Bubba, even if he gets elected POTUS . . ." simple as that?

  11. Lisa,

    Nice post and a fresh perspective. Here is a question for you:

    "Meanwhile, over 1,000 women are murdered in domestic violence scenarios annually in the U.S"...."I do not buy that we in the U.S. have the moral cachet to export a healthy acceptance of women to any society."

    Not even suggesting that 1 woman murdered in domestic violence (or beaten) is acceptable, but for some perspective. how does this number compare with other nations? I've been to some pretty horrible societies, Afghanistan included, some dreadful African societies. I've only read about societies such as China were baby girls are killed and India where girls are considered a burden. While we clearly have not perfected full acceptance or a truly equal society, do you not feel that the gains we've made have at least filled enough of the moral cachet to try to influence other countries where woman's rights are non-existent? Must we be a perfect society before we try to export our believes, or is the very act of exporting our beliefs overly self important?

    I think back to my housekeeper in Africa, what a great woman, but she had no understanding of how poorly she was being treated. Was I wrong, perhaps being somehow neo-imperilaist, full of myself or just naive when I told her how she should be treated and how woman are treated in America?

  12. This just landed in my INBOX from "Thrillist" -- a site catering to lads:

    Cougars & Co. -- Social networking for not young girls

    The Internet's a proven boon for marginalized people looking to start relationships, from incarcerated violent criminals, to hot ass Jew broads. But what about the most marginalized group of all: middle aged women? Well now you can find them at Cougar & Co.

    Cougars & Co., started by a proud Arizonian cougar named Shelli (so much hotter than Shelly), C&C's a just-launched social network designed exclusively for older women and the cubs who --want to become soulmates and have meaningful, rewarding relationships with-- bone them.


    (p.s. -- I can't post comments unless I'm "ANON".)

    Talk about yer patriarchy!

  13. O.k. -- So I shared the lovely advert on cougers by way of explaining to seydlitz that patriarchy in all its guises is not dead. I don't know about 1969 (I was only 5), but 2010 patriarchy is alive and well, and Eminem is entirely relevant. In fact, I should've taken out the Peggy Lee and given you a good dose of rap to turn your stomach.

    The greybeards are profiting nicely off that swill, and the gangstas inhabit boardrooms, too, even if by proxy. Sexism and repression is entrenched in our society. I am not one to yell at all the nasty white men; not at all. Women are complicitous in their subjugation, too.

    All I'm saying is, we're qualified to be no one's moral arbiters, and this extends into all of our relations -- adult/child, partnerships, etc. Women still earn 77 cents to the man's dollar Women Earn Less Than Men. Look at the sex abuses in the Church. Patriarchy is a part of this.

    When I see the exploitation all 'round, I can see why the Taliban might think us corrupt. We are.

    Who would you implicate for the rampant misogyny in 2010 America?


  14. You just now figuring this out, Lisa? That television is an exploitative and cruel medium catering to a cruel and exploitative society?

    WRT the treatment of women, I'd say you needn't look much further than your nearest church, synagogue or mosque.

    And IMO, friends Seydlitz and Bg are missing the point. Seydlitz, Eminem and his rap companions are lineal descendants of the patriarchy. And just because some babes game the horn dog system to their advantage doesn't mean mysogyny is dead; in fact, a lot of women will tell you this reinforces it.

    And, hey, Bg, It ain't about THEM, it's about US. In fact, I'll turn it around on you, Bg: how in the world can a military that can't control the baser instincts of its male soldiers ever expect to have credibility in trying to "teach" foreign devils how to treat their women? Unless and until you active duty guys start really start hammering the bad dudes, you'll have no credibility with a whole lot of folks.

    Oh, and then, Bg, in recognition of reality, you've got to do a better job of sorting these things out. Fact is, having been around the block a few times, I know not all of those "assault" cases truly were "assault." We all know that. Even Lisa knows that. It does us no good whatsoever to arbitrarily keelhaul every accused male without making a sincere effort to get at the facts. Being human, some women will game the system. That can't be allowed. Women ultimately suffer when it is allowed: reinforces stereotypes and also reinforces discriminatory attitudes and behavior.

    Good, thought-provoking post, Lisa.

  15. bg,

    "is the very act of exporting our beliefs overly self important?" -- YES!

    To use the idea of launching war to export our fine level of human relations to the heathens is absurd.

    You mention your fine housekeeper who "had no understanding of how poorly she was being treated." I do not know the treatment you refer to -- was it working all day for a pittance while she then had to go home and slave for eight children? I do not know.

    But I can say that many women in the U.S. also do not know how poorly they are treated, or worse, they are entirely complicit in their exploitation because societal paradigms have not emancipated them. Despite the best efforts of Oprah and five aisles of self-help books at Borders.

    No -- aside from parts the West Coast and the Northeast, we are largely not a paragon of enlightenment when it comes to how the genders interact. With a 49% divorce rate, I'd say we're primatives.

    Abuse rates are especially troubling, and we use fists to pummel instead of stones. I don't see the difference. And I am not talking about ignorant women, solely. High-earning women also endure this degradation. Much of this is hidden.

    I think it ludacrous to imagine that we stomped into partly to fix their gender relations. Why do we want to export our dysfunctions? How arrogant.


  16. Publius,

    We know how fixed the t.v. game is (and yet people live on it!) -- I just thought the brief arc allowed Ms. Boyle revealed our cruelty and hypocrisy nicely.

    You said it well: Eminem et. al are the "lineal descendants of the patriarchy." It doesn't get any clearer than that.

    And your compliment cancels out your, "even Lisa knows that" ;)


  17. I suppose to comes down to how one defines "patriarchy". In Feminist terms, "patriarchal ideology" is directly related to the incidence of violence against women, the stronger the ideological component the more common is violence against women. You see this in plenty of traditional cultures, cultures which btw see Western culture as a threat for specifically these reasons . . .

    I don't see society in terms of gender conflict though, and think that not the decisive element. Far more is the collapse of ideology and belief systems, of which "patriarchy" is but one. It consists for me of a whole belief system of which the status of women is only part.

    As to "beauty", it's marketing more than misogyny, since you have plenty of power women and non-patriarchial type males with an interest in keeping the current definitions and attitudes in place. It's "youth" especially which sells, more than gender.

    The connection with Hip-Hop is superficial. That Rapsters and "patriarchs" both treat women like crap does not cover over their glaring differences, even their basic hostility. Eminem's basic message is not only that women are for fun, but that your father, any father - even if you know who he is - is full of crap. He's not a symbol of honor or respect but of ridicule. In a patriarchy would not these old men (and of course their faithful wives and our mothers too) be respected, cherished, cared for? So why do we ridicule them in song, not to mention warehouse them in oldfolks homes, keep them alive in order to squeeze that last bit out of them before they pass away forgotten?

    Is gender discrimination what really defines our elite? The basis of conflict in our society? Or is it something else? If you follow this line of reasoning, that of this Feminist definition of "patriarchy" that is what you would have to conclude, but does our actual elite and their actions reflect that? Do the actual conflicts in American society?

    I'm not saying that sexism and misogyny don't exist in the US, but that they don't define our elite or how it operates, rather this serves as a distraction from their actual nature.

    Consider the members of that elite - George W Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton . . . Sonia Sotomayor as well (or do you think she'll turn out to be something soooo much different?) What do they have in common? What separates them from the masses?

  18. Seydlitz,

    You're covering a lot of ground here. patriarchy or feminism in itself could not be adequately addressed in one blog. They are separate (though related) issues tangential to my sole contention, which is that we should not be exporting our particular gender dysfunctions in the guise of moral superiority.

    I will take exception with the following:

    "In Feminist terms, 'patriarchal ideology' is directly related to the incidence of violence against women, the stronger the ideological component the more common is violence against women. You see this in plenty of traditional cultures, cultures which btw see Western culture as a threat for specifically these reasons . . ."

    Not all Feminist ideology correlates patriarchy to violence, but its existence does imply a power imbalance (which may always exist, if sheerly due to biological differences.)

    What do you mean when you say, other cultures "see Western culture as a threat for specifically these reasons . . ."

    You say, "I don't see society in terms of gender conflict though, and think that not the decisive element."

    Of course not; you're a man. I would not argue that gender conflict is the "decisive" conflictual element in our society -- merely one of many. My only argument is that it is disingenuous to use the export of(non-existent) gender parity as a justification for war.

    Out of curiosity, what DO you think is the "decisive" element?

  19. Lisa-

    I use a Feminist definition of "patriarchy" since I thought that was what you were using. Essentially "patriarchy" = "violence against women" which seems to me your argument, at least based on what you have posted on this thread. Imo Feminism is a legitimate perspective, as is Marxism, although their jump-off points in terms of analysis and their associated assumptions are quite different. I admit that I'm perhaps too influenced by Andrea Dworkin in regards to Feminism since her views constitute such a clear ideal type. Theorists have a strong tendency to deal happily with extremes. ;

    Other cultures, say traditional Muslim cultures, see Western attitudes (i.e. modernity) as a threat to their value systems, giving the young people "the wrong ideas". This goes along with my more involved definition of "patriarchy" which is very much influenced by Max Weber's (Marianne Weber's husband's) concept of "patriarchalism" which is a traditional form of domination.

    The decisive element imo is the collapse of ideology, or the triumph of private interest and the distortion of the individual as a narcotic substitute for politics. Our ideals have simply become labels and meaningless buzzwords used to swindle and confuse the stooges, who unfortunately make up the majority of our electorate.

    As to "distraction", this is all distraction, including most of what I post, since we are unable to organize effectively politically and deal with very basic domestic political questions, as we lurch towards our very own "extraordinary political moment" following Schmitt, or simply our own "Yugoslav experience" as Chris Hedges has written . . .

    Btw, are you saying that you have to be a woman to understand gender conflict? Would that carry across cultures? Also, your comments as to exporting our culture at gunpoint I agree with . . .

    On a personal level, it is a pleasure trading ideas with you.

  20. seydlitz,

    I do not hew to the hard-line "patriarchy" = "violence against women", and of course, Dworkin is an extreme example. (That is not to say she does not have valid points, esp. in her views on pornography which I daresay would be unpopular with many feminists today, who might see women plying their trade as being in a power position. We will write something related to this issue today at RAW.)

    I'm sure modernity in all its forms is perceived as the dominant threat to traditional Islam, yet ... just how advanced is modern western culture vis-a-vis women? Yeah, we don't have to wear burkhas, but I would argue that is but an outward trapping distracting us from an underlying similarity of attitudes. the problem is one that FDC has voiced before: How quickly have we advanced since our very recent Homo sapien incarnation?

    This again is a very complex issue, but the prevalence of war, genocide, bigotry, and basically violence of every stripe indicates we're not too far removed from the "primatives". If so, how can we be so sure that we should trudge out our views on how women should be treated (which men like bg feel are rather benign) and impose those upon other societies?

    Unspeakable cruelty exists on every street in every town in the U.S. We don't usually hang out our dirty laundry, being the independent spirits we are. But my point is, we just don't know that our way is the best. Feeling like pioneers and having an ever-new frontier feels right to us, but maybe more insular cultures have their own benefits.

    I agree with the collapse of ideology and the triumph of a crude and loud solipsism which prevents us from mobilizing on the most basic political issues. When you mention "our very own 'extraordinary political moment'" I am reminded of Max Headroom -- perhaps the first media embodiment of this mindset.

    I am teasing you about being a man; of course you can understand gender conflict. In fact, it is essential to have a meeting of minds if we'll ever have any hope of breaking this thing down.

    Personally though, I do not look for absolute parity; Vive la difference -- a compassionate difference!

    It is a pleasure sharing ideas with you, too :)

  21. A bit more on patriarchy:

    Why Being Female Is a Pre-Existing Condition. As the first commenter said,

    "Everything is more expensive for women. I don’t expect it to change but wish it would. We make less money and pay more for everything else. Another wrong that needs to made right."

  22. Modern Western culture is advanced enough in terms of women's status as to be seen as a threat by more traditional cultures - "patriarchies". From my perspective we are definatly not a patriarchy in the Weberian sense, but rather operate mostly under a rational legal system of domination (although I would argue that starting in the 1990s and accelerating in 2001 we have been operating with something of a hybrid system of a hidden patrimonial system operating behind the facade of a rational/legal state).

    This brings up an interesting distinction that I mentioned in connection with one of Charlie's comments. The "US" is defined mostly in political terms. There was no American culture that pre-dated the establishment of the US, unlike say here in Europe. In Portugal, for instance, Portuguese culture goes back to the Romans and predates by at least a thousand years the establishment of an independent Portuguese kingdom. Portuguese allegiance to the state is limited and contingent, which is the case in most of southern Europe. This means that the culture is much more traditional and slower to change since legal/state intervention is problematic. Has the status of women improved in Portugal since the revolution of 1974? I would say yes, as have the general well-being of the people, but there is much left to achieve, in wages for instance. There the greatest distinction is at the lower end of the scale. In fact I edited an economics paper arguing that male compared to female pay scales in the tourist industry (mostly low-wage workers) showed clear discrimination against women, but here you see the effect of class distinctions (and interests) as well.

    My point is that it might be much easier to implement changes in states that lack this deep cultural identity, since this will influence how the new laws are in fact accepted and carried out. Portugal has a great legal code, but enforcing the laws, obeying them and how this is seen within society as a whole, not to mention the attitude of local politicians, are all related matters that decisively influence what effect the law actually has.

  23. Lisa and Seydlitz, good debate. I am just watching and enjoying from the cheap seats.


    "To use the idea of launching war to export our fine level of human relations to the heathens is absurd."

    Did I ever suggest such a thing? I feel your statement about the state of woman's rights in America has merit, but is over stated and fails to acknowledge some global perspective. I've seen societies where woman are overtly mentally abused every day. While our implicit abuse still requires a lot of work, I maintain your statement lacks perspective.


    "Bg: how in the world can a military that can't control the baser instincts of its male soldiers ever expect to have credibility..."

    Man, you got me. I don't (can't) doubt the stats, but they do not reflect my experiences. You've already made the only argument I got on that one. I wonder what they consider "assault" in these stats. I've seen harassment (and a fair amount of it), and it has been stomped on by leadership, but nothing I would consider assault. I've heard stories on bases in Iraq but never any first hand knowledge of any assaults. But my near 3 years on bases were primarily on bases with a large male population, and small minority of females. (It may seem counter intuitive, but I believe there is a better chance of assault on bases with higher female percentage, such as large support bases, where I never worked). But I don't know, as I said, those stats do not reflect my experiences. Nor do they reflect the experiences of many of my friends (I've spoken with a couple of my female officer friends, they all admit harassment, worse than I knew about, but with few examples if any of assault). It must be happening, the stats don't lie (stats never do, right?), but I don't know where it is happening or how. Tough problem to solve from my optic, I hope someone in the big organization has a better handle on the problem.

  24. seydlitz,

    While I appreciate this statement:

    "although I would argue that starting in the 1990s and accelerating in 2001 we have been operating with something of a hybrid system of a hidden patrimonial system operating behind the facade of a rational/legal state"

    I would argue just how quickly one could ramp up that "hybrid system" were it not already a shadow state. We are just not that labile, IMHO.

    Your argument re. social change from culture vs. legal imperative is interesting. Of course, what matters most in terms of behavior is, what do the actual people value -- justice or morality (as they see it.) You are observing from within a longstanding culture, where you see the U.S. as a younger construction. While that may be true constitutionally, the people are no "younger" in their mindset.

    People carry the accretion of all that went before; archetypes exist for a reason.

    Fairy tales, religions, families -- institutions of all types drag behind them the one immutable constant: the human being. It is he who has not changed, despite the imposition of rules, etc.

  25. bg,

    I do not believe I overstate my case, nor do I believe I lack perspective. bg says:

    "[my view]of woman's rights in America has merit, but is over stated and fails to acknowledge some global perspective. I've seen societies where woman are overtly mentally abused every day."

    My contention is irrespective of the global status of women. Our abuses are not reduced because someone over there does worse. That is fallacious reasoning.

    It could easily be argued that women, by virtue of being bombarded with the ceaseless media feed alone, are "mentally abused every day of their lives."

    Something has to account for women being so screwed up, wouldn't you agree on that, bg?

  26. Lisa, that question sounds like a trap and I will plead the 5th.

    But agreed, just because it is better here than in other parts of the world, doesn't make it right. I completely agree that we have a ways to go. Cultural and biological factors play a strong role that may not be overcome. I just finished reading SuperFreakanomics, and it has an interesting chapter on trying to determine why woman in America continue to make less than their male peers. The argument boils down to no difference in capabilities between the sexes (in fact, woman had a higher percentage of masters degrees), and no discernible discrimination, but instead the averages (statistics) are heavily influenced by decisions women make as they balance family and career (as compared to decisions that are made for them by their male counterparts). And those decisions are made based on cultural and biological norms associated bearing children.

    I think you have a very valid point that the media feed can be "mental abuse" to some degree, but let's not over look cultural, societal norms and biology itself.

    Along the lines of media influenced "mental abuse", check out our friends in the historically patriarchal Japanese society. That is a society that is imploding before our very eyes.

  27. We do a great disservice to the female contingent of our society. From an early age we teach them to depend on men. Instead of teaching them to be independent and self sufficient, we teach them methods to snag a man. We teach them which men are 'most desirable' as husbands. We perpetuate a sugar daddy meme.

    I see young women with opportunities: college, career, sports, you name it. I get so frustrated when I see a woman turn down those opportunities.

    I'm just back from my niece's, Anna's, funeral. Her's is a special case, unfortunately not unique. Her mother, my sister, was forced to marry a man she did not love. She got pregnant and named him as the father. My parents, as good Catholics, made her do the 'right' thing. When my sister complained to her mother about her husband, 'Have more kids, they'll bring you closer together.' was Mom's response. (Yes, I'm screaming inside.) Thus was Anna born. By the time she was ten, my sister and her husband were no longer living together. It's truly no wonder that by 17, Anna was pregnant.
    Anna had that first baby, but subsequently aborted two more. She had two DUI's and was sent to detox after the second one. About six months ago, she got caught, once again, driving while drunk. That is when things took a serious downward spiral. She was diagnosed as bipolar and medicated. She never did respond properly to the meds. She took her own life last week.
    To me, Anna was a victim of a society that perpetuates an outdated tradition that ostracizes mothers of children born out of wedlock. She was a victim of a school system that does not prepare children, much less girls for life after school. She was a victim of family traditions that see a woman's role as being only the housewife and mother, with no possibility of an independent, self sufficient life.

    Anna was a bright and beautiful woman. While she'd cringe at me calling her a victim, I call it like I see it. We, as a society, have a long way to go before we'll see true equality among the sexes.

  28. bg,

    Too clever by half.

    Freedom isn't freedom unless are free. Manumission and suffrage can be legally enforced, and we have laws against violence and abuse. But the laws are there because we are wont to transgress against them.

    France went farther than the U.S. this year and has criminalized psychological and verbal abuse of domestic partners. I feel that is a civilized recognition of the great "hidden" damage done to women on a daily basis.

    The roots of the impulse to subjugate are deep and complex. At its most benign, patriarchy can be protective and even nurturing of its females. Somehow, this urge gets twisted. I do not absent women from the equation. They are often every bit as complicit in the subterfuge.

    That's why I'm a capo for honesty, which, I might add, people seem to resist heartily.

  29. wourm,

    I am sorry for your loss. How can we not call Anna a victim?

    It is only when we all start to tell the truth that victimization and brutalization ends. Unfortunately, there are many societal institutions which rely on entrenching our feelings of shame and guilt. This past weekend's holiday was one such demonstration.

    That is not to knock the potent symbolism of rebirth, but as Christopher Hitchens points out, the Christian is not about symbolism, but actuality, and it is in that belief over metaphor that any good is lost, IMHO.