Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Kate Manne: The Shock Collar That Is Misogyny

From Guernica:

A philosopher rethinks what’s keeping women down.

By Regan Penaluna February 7, 2018

What Elliot Rodger did on the evening of Friday, May 23, 2014, isn’t contested, but the reason he did it is. That night Rodger knocked on the door of a sorority house near the University of California, Santa Barbara, and when the women inside didn’t let him in, he left and shot three women who were on the sidewalk, and then continued the rampage, ultimately killing six people and injuring fourteen. He then shot and killed himself.

Before the attacks, Rodger posted a video of himself online, declaring that he intended to punish women for not giving him the attention he felt he deserved—and the men whom he perceived as receiving that attention and therefore envied. In light of the evidence, a number of feminist commentators called the killing spree an act of misogyny, part of a pattern of gender-based rampages. 

But others in the media and the academy argued differently. They claimed the cause was mental illness.

It was then that Kate Manne, an assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell University, started to write. What was missing from the debate, Manne thought, was a clear account of the nature of misogyny, and so she set out to develop one. The result is her new book, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, a carefully argued work aimed at a broad audience, which proposes that misogyny is the act of correcting women who fail to give men what men believe they’re due. 

Manne tosses out the common thinking that misogyny is equivalent to despising all women, and instead offers that it’s a way to keep women in their place. Misogyny, she writes, is “the system that operates within a patriarchal social order to police and enforce women’s subordination and to uphold male dominance.” Like a shock collar used to keep dogs behind an invisible fence, misogyny, she argues, aims to keep women—those who are well trained as well as those who are unruly—in line. 

The power of Manne’s definition comes from its ability to bring together various behaviors and events under one umbrella. If misogyny is anything that enforces women’s subordination, then it turns out that lots of phenomena fit the profile.

I spoke with Manne over the phone in an attempt to shed some light on this past year, during which so many brave women have come forward to share their experiences of sexual trauma and have actually been taken seriously. The moment is ripe for a reckoning, and Manne offers the language and theory I’ve found myself grasping for. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, she combines the hyper-articulateness of a philosopher and the energy and humor of a down-to-earth millennial, which is electrifying; I imagine she’s a popular professor. At one point during our call, her corgi happily barked in the background, and she pointed out that her dog “couldn’t be silenced” by the patriarchy.
More than anything, I could feel an urgency on the line. Manne is restlessly driven by a sense that things are not right, a sense that this world is a very unjust place for women. She doesn’t think she can fix it. “I’m much more a clarity person than a solutions person,” she says. But she does believe that philosophy can help us understand what’s at stake in the broader fight to overcome patriarchy. 

“It’s so far from cessation,” she says, “but I’m not despairing.”

Regan Penaluna for Guernica

Guernica: Why did you write a book about misogyny?

Kate Manne: “Misogyny” wasn’t on my radar until October 2012, when the prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, used it in a speech before parliament to call out Tony Abbott, the then opposition party leader, for his sexist and misogynist behavior. Although Gillard’s speech went viral, the occasion for her anger was lost on many people. Abbott had originally demanded Gillard call for the resignation of one of her ministers, who had sent text messages leaked to the media likening women’s genitals to mussels—shucked, he specified—and calling a female colleague an “ignorant botch,” thanks to the Freudian intervention of auto-correct. But Gillard did not want to have to call on Slipper [the minister] to resign; to her mind, he was still a serviceable minister. And she was not sanguine about being “lectured,” as she put it, by Abbott on fitting conduct with regards to gender.

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Democrats Finally Begin Denouncing Louis Farrakhan for His Anti-Semitic Rants

From Alternet:

The Nation of Islam leader was previously praised by one of the organizers of the Women's March.

By Cody Fenwick March 8, 2018

Democratic lawmakers are denouncing Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam who has a long history of hateful rhetoric and recently came under fire after he made anti-Semitic remarks at a speech attended by one of the organizers of the Women's March.

At the end of February, Farrakhan said so-called "power Jews" are his enemy, according to a CNN report.  

Farrakhan continued: "White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God's grace, has pulled the cover off of that satanic Jew and I'm here to say your time is up, your world is through."

This is far from the first time Farrakhan has made bigoted comments. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented his history of anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT rhetoric, including his claim that "the Jews got a stranglehold on the Congress."

During the 2016 election, Farrakhan praised candidate Donald Trump for not accepting money from the "Jewish community."

Now, Democrats who have previously met with or had ties to Farrakhan have begun denouncing him. While some, such as Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), directly criticized Farrakhan, others, including Reps. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Andre Carson (D-IN), stuck to denouncing bigotry or hate speech more broadly. 

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), however, seemed irritated to be asked about the issue, saying his constituents care only about the issues.

Tamika Mallory, one of the founders of the Women's March, has been under criticism for her ties to Farrakhan. She attended his February speech and once posted a picture with him on Instagram that referenced the religious figure as a "GOAT" (greatest of all time). In a column for News One, she continued to refuse to denounce him, instead saying: "It is impossible for me to agree with every statement or share every viewpoint of the many people who I have worked with or will work with in the future."

Bigotry isn't an issue with room for equivocation. The Democratic Party would help prove its worth to the country by taking a united stand against individuals like Farrakhan who espouse dangerous bigotry.

Missing Shulamith and The Dialectic of #MeToo

Shulmith Firestone passed away a few years back, alone and mostly forgotten, after battling years of mental health issues.  But I remember her writings from nearly fifty years ago and the white hot heat of Second Wave Feminism, how much strength it provided me with when I was coming out.
From Tikkun Magazine:

by Martha Sonnenberg February 14, 2018

I was 24 years old in 1970, when I read Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex, a year younger than she was when she wrote the book. The book catapulted me from the limitations of the Left organization of which I was a member into the world of Women’s Liberation.  There was no going back once I saw and felt the chauvinism of the Left, how women’s issues were  seen as tangential to the more important priorities of  “real” radical politics, rather than seeing feminism as “central and directly radical in itself.” Women in my organization typically played a supportive role to the men, the theorists, the writers, the speakers—we made coffee, mimeographed pamphlets, passed out the pamphlets, sometimes we spoke at meetings, and even had a women’s caucus within the organization, but, as Firestone told us, we were still “in need of male approval, in this case anti-establishment male approval, to legitimate (ourselves) politically”.

When Shulamith Firestone died, at the age of 67, in 2013, ravaged by mental illness and forgotten by many, her sister, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone said in her eulogy, “She influenced thousands of women to have new thoughts, to lead new lives.  I am who I am, and a lot of women are who they are, because of Shulie.”  I was one of those women.

Recently, I took my dog eared copy of The Dialectic of Sex down from my bookshelf as the #MeToo movement evolved, and was once again astounded by the incendiary brilliance of the book, now nearly 50 years old.  Shulamith Firestone was the first, and maybe the only, to probe the depths to which a misogynistic patriarchy permeated our society, developing a concept of a “sexual class system” which ran deeper than economic, racial, or social divisions.  With prescient analytical perspective, she placed the traditional family structure at the core of women’s oppression.  She wrote, “Unless revolution uproots the basic social organization, the biologic family—the vinculum through which the psychology of power can always be smuggled—the tapeworm of exploitation will never be annihilated.”  While the establishment press characterized her ideas as preposterous, many of her notions of how patriarchal social organization would be “uprooted” have come to realization—in vitro fertilization, how children are socialized, children’s rights,  gay rights and the legalization of  gay marriage, the whole LGBTQ movement, ending traditional marriage roles,  the freeing of gender identity from biologic destiny.  And it is within the context of these historical developments, upending the socio-economic buttress of traditional gender roles and identities that #MeToo has emerged. These factors have given #MeToo  a power and force that previous “waves” of women’s liberation lacked, not because previous issues or efforts were any less important, but because they were unable to reach women in all levels of society, transcending class, race, profession, and age. #MeToo , with its revelations of the ubiquity of abuse and violence against women,has reached all these women.  Importantly, too, it  is a movement that began not with “leaders”, but from grass roots in communities all across the country, and, in fact, all across the world.

The history of #MeToo has been obscured by the media frenzy that concurrently emerged.  Tarana Burke, an African American woman, created a non-profit organization called Me Too in 2006, to help women of color who had been sexually abused or assaulted. This was not about naming perpetrators or holding them accountable; it was only to give the affected women a voice. This, the media ignored.
But in 2017 two things happened which did get media attention:  The New York Times published revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse of Hollywood women, and following that, an actress, Alyssa Milano, who became aware of Tarana Burke’s work, wrote in social media, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me Too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”  What followed was the flooding of social media with stories of abuse and harassment, and a way for women to tell their experience and stand in solidarity with other abuse survivors. In the first 24 hours of Milano’s post, more than 12 million “MeToo” posts appeared.   All these aspects of #MeToo, its mass base and its revelation of the pervasive and perverse alignment of misogyny and power, make it dangerous to the established power structure.  Not surprisingly, that power structure has responded quickly in its attack on #MeToo.

Power and patriarchy defends itself

Efforts to maintain current power structures and cultures take multiple forms.  One of the most insidious forms of preserving the current power relationships lies with the established media.  While the “media” is not an autonomous entity, the individuals who contribute to it, the writers, the pundits, the “newsmakers”, promote in various ways the dominant culture of institutionalized sexism, and the undermining of #MeToo.  It does so in the following ways:

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Feminists have slowly shifted power. There’s no going back

From The Guardian UK:

The #TimesUp and #MeToo movements are a revolution that could not have taken place without decades of quiet, painstaking groundwork

Thu 8 Mar 2018 

This International Women’s Day comes five months after the revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s long campaign of misogynist punishments of women first broke, and with them more things broke. Excuses broke. Silence was broken. The respectable appearance of a lot of institutions broke. You could say a dam broke, and a wall of women’s stories came spilling forth – which has happened before, but never the way that this round has. This time around, women didn’t just tell the stories of being attacked and abused; they named names, and abusers and attackers lost jobs and reputations and businesses and careers. They named names, and it mattered; people listened; their testimony had consequences. Because there’s a big difference between being able to say something and having it heard and respected. Consequences are often the difference.

Something had shifted. What’s often overlooked is that it had shifted beforehand so that this could happen. Something invisible had made it possible for these highly visible upheavals and transformations. People often position revolution and incrementalism as opposites, but if a revolution is something that changes things suddenly, incrementalism often lays the groundwork that makes it possible. Something happens suddenly, and that’s mistaken for something happening out of the blue. But out of the blue usually means out of the things that most people were not paying attention to, out of the slow work done by somebody or many somebodies out of the limelight for months or years or decades.

Same-sex marriage arrived suddenly in the US when the supreme court legalised it nationwide, except that many states had already legalised it, and that came about as the result of the valiant work of countless non-straight people and their allies, making visible that not everyone is straight, making it important that everyone get rights, making queer people themselves believe they deserved and could win those rights. And it happened because the test case in California went before what appeared to be a conservative judge – federal judge Vaughn Walker, appointed by George Herbert Walker Bush – who had been in the closet himself at the time of his appointment, but was gay, and whose own attitudes toward his orientation must have evolved as the culture around him evolved. He found in favour of marriage equality and set up the case to be clear and thorough when it reached the supreme court. When judges rule on what seems self-evident common sense – be it Brown versus Board of Education or marriage equality – it often seems that way because of slow incremental changes in societal norms and beliefs. The judge gets the public finale, but the shift comes from the cumulative effect of tiny gestures and shifts.

This #TimesUp/#MeToo moment is no different; it is a revolt for which we have been preparing for decades, or perhaps it’s the point at which a long, slow, mostly quiet process suddenly became fast and loud. Part of the work was done over the past five years, more of it over the past 50. We have had a tremendous upheaval over the past few years – at the end of 2014, I wrote in these pages: “I have been waiting all my life for what this year has brought.” What this wave brought is recognition that each act of gender violence is part of an epidemic. It’s brought a (partial) end to treating these acts as isolated incidents, as the victim’s fault, as the result of mental illness or other aberrations. It’s meant a more widespread willingness to recognise that such violence is extraordinarily common and has an enormous impact, and arises from values, privileges and attitudes built into the culture.

It’s a shift that’s often happened before, for other rights issues, as something long tolerated is finally recognised as intolerable, which means that the people for whom it was not a problem finally recognise the suffering of those for whom it was. This shift from tolerated to intolerable is often the result of a power shift in who decides, or a shift in what stories dominate, or in whose story gets told, or believed. It’s a subtle shift in who matters that precedes dramatic change.

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

The anti-Semite who’s haunting the left

From The Washington Post:

March 7, 2018

President Trump is a friend to anti-Semites. As it turns out, so are his enemies.

The latest round of left-infighting has focused on a man who some might be surprised to discover is still declaiming: Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Hatred for the “satanic Jew” has long been a theme of Farrakhan’s rhetoric, and since his popularity peaked with 1995’s Million Man March he has drifted toward the edges of the public consciousness. Now, though, he’s back — because organizers of the Women’s March movement brought him there.

Farrakhan gave a speech on the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day in Chicago last week saying that “the powerful Jews are my enemy” and announcing to them “your time is up, your world is through.” This would have been just another day, had Farrakhan not shouted out the Women’s March’s Tamika Mallory, who attended the event. And had Mallory not initially refused to denounce his anti-Semitism when the Web took notice, responding instead that “If your leader does not have the same enemies as Jesus, they may not be THE leader!” And had other Women’s March bigwigs such as Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez not defended Farrakhan in the past.

On Tuesday, after days of silence, the Women’s March finally released a statement acknowledging that Farrakhan’s views were “not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles, which were created by women of color leaders and are grounded in Kingian nonviolence” — but not outright denouncing him, and not apologizing for promoting him. The same day, a Jewish GOP group called for the resignation of seven Democratic representatives from Congress because of their ostensible ties to Farrakhan.

This has set off a string of back-and-forths between those furious at some left-wingers’ hesitance to condemn Farrakhan and anyone who associates with him, and those frustrated at conservatives, centrists and even other liberals for focusing on a fringe figure when there’s a white nationalist-lite in the Oval Office.

It’s true that the Farrakhan frenzy looks overblown compared to the collective reaction to the rise of the alt-right. Sure, Trump’s praise for the “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally riled people up, and sure, they pay attention again every time a publication prints a profile of a neo-Nazi. But few conservatives have disavowed the Trump administration for its part in priming the pump of prejudice, or fought to expunge that hatred from GOP politics. Indeed, Republicans seem far more exercised about tariffs than about white supremacy. And considering the president’s position of power, the alt-right resurgence poses a greater on-the-ground threat to Jews (not to mention other minorities) than the rantings of a marginalized religious leader.

But just because the right has failed to confront anti-Semitism within its ranks doesn’t mean the left should fail, too. The Women’s March organizers should understand this better than anyone. It’s a poor look for those who call themselves activists, and who say they’re concerned with inclusivity and intersectionality, to defend someone who has crusaded against both of those ideas. Some may see Farrkhan as a truth-teller when it comes to race relations, but his record reaches beyond that. He’s an anti-Semite, he’s a homophobe and he’s a misogynist. Spearheading a movement that’s about building a better world for women of all colors and creeds means opposing advocacy that attacks women of any color or creed.

The far right hates vaginas. Why doesn’t this anger the left more?

From The Guardian UK:

Identity politics ought to unite the left, not divide us. No progressive should be at ease while macho misogyny thrives

Thu 8 Mar 2018

From Donald Trump’s “locker-room banter” about grabbing women by the pussy, to the instructions of the Philippines president to shoot female guerrilla fighters in the genitals, a clear target of contemporary fascistic and “alt-right” politics seems to be vaginas. This isn’t a case of hidden patriarchal structures supporting gender inequality. It’s explicit and unashamed references that identify women either as the enemy or the subhuman other, subordinate to the pleasure of macho men. And it’s a trend that’s spanning the globe.

In Britain, the victim of this emerging culture was the MP Jo Cox. Some will argue that Thomas Mair, her murderer, was an isolated case, a disturbed Nazi sympathiser from whom we cannot generalise. But before we dismiss his crime as a one-off we should remember that gender identity, specifically masculine identity, is at the centre of fascistic discourse. Crime – against women or ethnic minorities – is often a resource for those who feel their masculinity is threatened. It is a way to be “male” again.

In Russia, the bare-chested Putin is endlessly pictured plunging into icy lakes or riding horses. It’s all designed to promote a particular type of masculinity but also a particular type of political ideal: of macho, authoritarian leadership, strong and ruthless towards its enemies. The enemies in question are often women who question the patriarchal status quo (Pussy Riot being a prime example). But other religious or ethnic groups are feminised too.

As the professor and activist Cynthia Enloe has argued, it is high time to rethink this relationship between leaders’ macho posturing and the type of politics they are likely to advocate. The personal is political because men in leadership positions with misogynistic attitudes are probably going to promote policies reinforcing intolerance. There can be no truly progressive politics while such misogyny is allowed to continue. Similarly, when an industry tolerates harassment and violence against women, that says a lot about the type of product it creates. The Harvey Weinstein scandal comes to mind here: how progressive can his movies be when he treats women as objects?
And to push it even further: how progressive can a country be if it permits this industry to go on unreformed? The micro paves the way for the macro.

Too often on the left these calls have fallen upon the deaf ears of a movement that is unable to recognise any struggle as important if it isn’t centred around class. Identity politics have been wilfully misinterpreted by parts of the left as an explanation for the advance of the far right – it’s political correctness driving them to it. This is done in the hope of promoting class politics, but it demonstrates that the left is sometimes stuck in an orthodox past, before the big “identity” movements, from the suffragettes to civil rights, took place. Across the world, it is the left that is struggling to articulate something meaningful while the far right is advancing.

Eric Hobsbawm, writing in 1996, contrasted the narrowness of identity politics with the universality of the working-class movement, which demands equality and justice for everyone.

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How to Counter the Circus of Pseudoscience

From The New York Times:

Jan. 5, 2018

Maybe one day, once I have decades of experience as a doctor and further training in my area of specialization, I will be able to speak about health matters with the tone of authority of the average naturopath.

That was the thought that crossed my mind recently while I waded through the online world of alternative-health practitioners, wellness bloggers, whole-food chefs and Gwyneth Paltrow.

I did not seek it out at first; it came to me through a social-media algorithm. Facebook offered up a video advertisement from a “female hormonal health specialist” with her own “practice.” Not an endocrinologist but a naturopath. She lectured with confidence on thyroid testing, though much of what she said was wrong. And down the internet rabbit hole I went.

One traditional view of the medical profession is that doctors are commanding and authoritarian, even arrogant. Though some individuals fit that description, in fact, the profession is built on doubt.

Most doctors, especially the good ones, are acutely aware of the limits of their knowledge. I have learned from those much more experienced and qualified than me that humility is something to be cultivated over time, not lost.

Our field is built around trying to prove ourselves wrong. In hospitals we hold morbidity and mortality meetings trying to show where we have failed, what we need to change, how we can do better. Our hospital work is audited to identify where we fell short of our ideals. Through scientific research we try to disprove the effectiveness of treatments. Our failings are exposed from the inside.

The nature of evidence-based health care is that practices change as new evidence emerges.

That is also the case for other health professionals whose practice is based on science, like qualified dietitians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists. Guidelines are revised, advice is reversed — on blood pressure, diet, hormone replacement, opioid prescribing. This can be immensely frustrating for patients, even though it is what we must do to provide the best possible treatment.

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ADL Tears Into Women’s March Leaders for Attending Louis Farrakhan Speech

From The Jewish Journal:

By Aaron Bandler Mar 2, 2018

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), ripped into leaders of the Women’s March for attending a Louis Farrakhan speech the prior weekend.
Greenblatt prefaced his Medium post by noting that Farrakhan’s speech during last weekend’s Nation of Islam convention was laced with anti-Semitism, which included statements about how “Jews are part of ‘the Synagogue of Satan;’ that the white people running Mexico are Mexican-Jews; that Jews control various countries including Ukraine, France, Poland and Germany where they take advantage of the money, the culture and the business; that Jesus called Jews ‘the children of the devil’; and ‘when you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.’” Farrakhan also promoted the anti-Semitic slander “that Jews control the government and the FBI and use marijuana to feminize black men.”

“The NOI uses its programs, institutions, publications, and social media to disseminate its message of hate,” Greenblatt wrote. “At last weekend’s convention they were heavily promoting, ‘The Secret History Between Blacks and Jews,’ a multivolume tract that blames Jews for orchestrating the transatlantic slave trade. It deserves a place on the shelf of every bigot alongside ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ another work of libelous fiction used to foment little more than intolerance.”
Greenblatt also pointed to Farrakhan’s bigoted statements toward whites and gays and then noted that too many public figures “have a blind spot” and specifically called out a couple of leaders of the Women’s March.

“Consider that in the audience at last weekend’s conference was Tamika Mallory, one of the leaders of the Women’s March, who got a special shout-out from Farrakhan and who regularly posts laudatory pictures of him on her Instagram account — as does Carmen Perez, another leader of the March,” Greenblatt wrote. “Linda Sarsour, another March organizer, spoke and participated at a Nation of Islam event in 2015. Her most notable response to his incendiary remarks this year was a glowing post on Perez’s Facebook page to praise Farrakhan’s youthful demeanor.”

Perez simply dismissed Farrakhan’s bigotry by stating that no one’s “perfect,” according to Greenblatt. Mallory touted a tweet from rapper called Mysonne to show that she isn’t anti-Semitic, although the Washington Free Beacon noted that Mysonne once tweeted that Jews were responsible for the oppression of blacks.

Zioness Movement President Amanda Berman called on the Women’s March leaders to condemn Farrakhan.

 “It is hypocritical beyond words that they continue to align themselves with Louis Farrakhan, who is an unapologetic bigot that spews hate targeting the Jewish community, LGBTQ community and others,” Berman said in a statement. “There is no ambiguity on this issue. Either the Women’s March leaders endorse the vilification of the Jewish people or they don’t. It’s that simple.”

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Of Course the Christian Right Supports Trump

From The New York Times:

Jan. 26, 2018

In 1958, the Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell, who would go on to found the Moral Majority, gave a sermon titled “Segregation or Integration: Which?” He inveighed against the Supreme Court’s anti-segregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, arguing that facilities for blacks and whites should remain separate.

“When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line,” he wrote, warning that integration “will destroy our race eventually.” In 1967, Falwell founded the Lynchburg Christian Academy — later Liberty Christian Academy — as a private school for white students.
The Lynchburg Christian Academy, in Virginia, was one of many so-called seg academies created throughout the South to circumvent desegregation. In the 1970s, these discriminatory schools lost their tax-exempt status. Feeling under siege as a result, conservative Christians started organizing politically. This was the origin of the modern religious right, and it helps explain why a movement publicly devoted to piety has stood so faithfully by Donald Trump.

In his 2014 biography of Jimmy Carter, the Dartmouth historian Randall Balmer quotes the conservative activist Paul Weyrich: “What caused the movement to surface was the federal government’s moves against Christian schools. This absolutely shattered the Christian community’s notions that Christians could isolate themselves inside their own institutions and teach what they please.” (This should sound familiar to anyone who has heard Christian conservative outrage over being forced to accommodate gay marriage.)

In 1980, the nascent religious right overwhelmingly supported Ronald Reagan, a former movie star who would become America’s first divorced president, over the evangelical Carter. In doing so, it helped destigmatize divorce. “Up until 1980, anybody who was divorced, let alone divorced and remarried, very likely would have been kicked out of evangelical congregations,” Balmer, who was raised evangelical and is now a scholar of evangelicalism, told me.

Given this history, it is not surprising that the contemporary leaders of the religious right are blasé about reports that Trump cheated on his third wife with a porn star shortly after the birth of his youngest child, then paid her to be quiet. Despite his louche personal life, Trump, the racist patriarch promising cultural revenge, doesn’t threaten the religious right’s traditional values. He embodies them.

This week, Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council, told Politico that Trump gets a “mulligan,” or do-over, on his past moral transgressions, because he’s willing to stand up to the religious right’s enemies. Evangelicals, Perkins said, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

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How a Holocaust-Era Yiddish Song Became a Women’s March Slogan

From Tablet Magazine:

The strange and inspiring history of “Mir Velen Zei Iberleben,” or “We Will Outlive Them”

By Avi Shafran
 January 30, 2018

At the recent second Women’s March, New York participants saw a banner held aloft with a hand-lettered Yiddish message, helpfully transliterated and translated into English. The transliteration read “Mir Velen Zei Iberleben”; and the translation, “We Will Outlive Them.”

The banner didn’t specify who the intended “them” might be (not men, I hope–though, of course, women do tend to live longer than those of us burdened with Y chromosomes). As to the legend on the banner, well, therein lies a tale, and it is a moving one.

It begins with a love song penned by Latvian-born cantor and composer Solomon Rosowsky, who received a degree in law from the University of Kiev but then opted to study music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. (One of his teachers was Rimsky-Korsakov).

The song, with its lively gypsy-style melody and a favorite of klezmer groups, is in the voice of one half of a couple begging the other half to reconsider some unelaborated-upon spat.
Its clever lyrics match its catchy tune, rhyming fenster (“window”–from the Latin fenestra; “fenester” was in fact a common English word for window until well into the 16th century; and see: “defenestrate”) with shenster (“most beautiful”); and pomerantzen (“oranges,” from the Latin pommom, “fruit” and Italian arancia, “orange”) with tantzen (dance).

The song’s title and refrain is “Lomr Zich Iberbetn”–or, rendered colloquially, “Let’s Make Up.”
Iber means “over” or “above.” Its German cognate, Über, is familiar to those who have read Nietzsche or requested a ride service (the philosopher’s Übermensch is a “superhuman”; and the recently resigned CEO Travis Kalanick’s choice of company name was intended to herald a “super” form of transportation).

And betn means to “request” or “plead.” So iberbetn might be understood as a plea for forgiveness, a “getting over” a quarrel, a reconciliation

What the song has to do with perseverance or overcoming something or someone lies in an account told to the Holocaust researcher Moshe Prager by an eyewitness, one Dr. Warman.

Complete article at:

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

My Questions About the #MeToo Moment

From Huffington Post:

By Phyllis Chesler 01/05/2018

I am glad so many women are speaking out—and I hope that this leads to some enduring changes; I would be delighted if this moment becomes a movement which leads to legislation that is both funded and enforced. Good faith and hard-won victories such as The Violence Against Women Act and the William Wilberforce Act Against Human Trafficking were passed, under-funded and therefore, could not fulfill their missions.

I am glad that women-workers-as-prey are each publicly confirming the details of their working lives—but I worry about our blurring all distinctions. An unwanted and forcible kiss is not legally the same as being forcibly touched, sexually assaulted. or kidnapped, beaten, and gang-raped.

The New York State Penal Law distinguishes between Sexual misconduct, Forcible touching, Sexual abuse, Aggravated Sexual Abuse, Rape, Criminal Sexual Act, Facilitated Sex Offense with a Controlled Substance, and Predatory Sexual Assault. Each violation is described differently and is subject to different penalties. We must remain aware of these distinctions.

However, I am concerned about something that is not even part of this Penal Law. Can we reduce to a single penalty the reality of an ongoing sexually hostile and coercive work environment, one filled with leers, sexualized comments, demeaning pats, humiliating exposures to pornography, street corner-like wolf calls and low whistles, repeated discussions of how women “look,” non-stop invitations to go out drinking, to a strip club—or to a hotel ? What do we call having to endure a brothel-like atmosphere at work?

I also worry when a mere accusation is equivalent to a conviction. Most entertainers and Talking Heads are employees at will and, as such, are not entitled to due process. They can be hired and fired and will. Those employees with union protection are entitled to inside hearings which may take years and in which the woman who has made the allegation will be fired, or eventually paid off with a pittance. This, too, is worrisome.

I am glad that Hollywood celebrities have crafted a very good ad and launched a fund for lawsuits about on-the-job sexual harassment and abuse. Yet, however noble this statement may be, I wonder whether such “virtue signaling” will be able to change the working conditions of farm and factory workers? More important, how will we be able to monitor and intervene in the daily work lives of female agricultural workers, waitresses, secretaries, housekeepers, bar tenders, miners, students, soldiers and prostituted women?

Yes, I am concerned with prostituted women who are paid to be treated with contempt: groped, grabbed, cursed, slapped, beaten, and sexually assaulted. I now wonder whether their working lives will become harder, harsher, if powerful men lose their sexual perks in the office and have to pay to treat women badly.

Still, I am glad the #MeToo Moment is happening. One hopes that women will be less afraid of exposing work-related sexual harassment and rape. But will they? Will lawyers agree to represent these women? Will juries find the perpetrators guilty when they really are?

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More people aging alone as ‘elder orphans’

From The Olympian:

By Anna Schlecht January 03, 2018

With luck and good genetics, you might be able to live on your own terms until the end of your days. But chances are, if you live long enough, you’ll eventually need help with things like cooking, cleaning and personal care. And independence becomes harder given the growing number of people who are aging alone as “elder orphans.”

According to AARP, more than 20 percent or 8.6 million people older than 65 are now, or are at risk of becoming, an elder orphan — a senior citizen who does not have a spouse, significant other or children

With luck and good genetics, you might be able to live on your own terms until the end of your days. But chances are, if you live long enough, you’ll eventually need help with things like cooking, cleaning and personal care. And independence becomes harder given the growing number of people who are aging alone as “elder orphans.”

According to AARP, more than 20 percent or 8.6 million people older than 65 are now, or are at risk of becoming, an elder orphan — a senior citizen who does not have a spouse, significant other or children to help care for them as they age. A far greater percentage have adult children who, for whatever reason, are unable or unwilling to help care for them.

This number will increase steadily until it doubles by the year 2050. That’s a lot of people who will need help to age in place.

Aging alone is tough given that the vast majority of elder care is provided by families through “informal caregiver” networks. These are networks of relatives who are pressed into service by need without specialized training. They are the people who cook, clean, and assist elderly people with basic personal care needs. According to a 2010 report, “The Evolving Balance of Formal and Informal, Institutional and non-Institutional Long-Term Care for Older Americans: a Thirty-Year Perspective,” two-thirds of older people who need assistance received all of their home-based care from a family caregiver, usually wives and daughters. Of this group of family caregivers, almost a third are themselves 65 or older. Approximately a quarter of elders received both informal care and some paid caregivers. Less than 10 percent relied solely upon on paid caregivers.

The Family Caregiver Alliance’s National Center on Caregiving reports that in 2015 there were nearly 66 million informal family and friend caregivers who cared for older adults who were unable to manage their “activities of daily living,” or ADLs, such as bathing, dressing or eating. This statistic includes a “live-in” category of offspring who move in with parents or grandparents to help them with unskilled care. It also includes a “drop-in” category of care from informal family networks of adult children or family friends who are visiting caregivers. Typically, they share the duties of elder care, with some providing food, others providing transportation or other assistance.

As a result of the growing need for elder care and the reduced numbers of family members willing or able to provide it, the Home Care Provider industry has grown rapidly to accommodate older people without family caregivers. As one of the fastest growing health care sectors, home care is a more affordable alternative than assisted living facilities, which cost as much as $9,000 per month, or skilled nursing, which can cost more than $3,000 per day. In comparison, home care costs average about $50 per day, clearly the most affordable option.

What does this all mean? It’s not an issue for my parents’ generation of 90-somethings, who are happily out-numbered by their numerous children who are eager to provide care. But for my generation of 60-somethings, the outlook isn’t so rosy. Many baby boomers, including me, are positioned to become elder orphans.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Patriarchs Are Falling. The Patriarchy Is Stronger Than Ever.

From The New York Times:

It would be easy to end 2017 with the impression that, whatever its afflictions, it was at least a game-changing year for feminism.

“The Female Revolution Is Here” and could “Smash Patriarchy at Its Core,” social and mainstream media headlines declared. “We are blowing the whistle on the prime directive of the master/slave relationship between women and men.” “This is the end of patriarchy” — this from Forbes! — “the male domination of humanity.” Twitter, the newsstand and the street concur: This year witnessed a transformational moment in American sexual politics.

Surely the results of the #MeToo phenomenon are worthy. It’s a seriously good thing Harvey Weinstein is gone and that the potential Harvey Weinsteins will think twice or thrice or a thousand times before harassing women whose fortunes they control. But “the end of patriarchy”? Look around.

This month, President Trump signed into law a tax bill that throws a bomb at women. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act systematically guts benefits that support women who need support the most: It means an end to personal and dependent exemptions (a disaster for minimum-wage workers, nearly two-thirds of whom are women). An expiration date for child-care tax credits and a denial of such credits for immigrant children without Social Security cards. An end to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. And, barely avoided, thanks to Democrats’ objections: an enshrinement of “fetal personhood” in the form of college savings accounts for unborn children, a sly grenade lobbed at legal abortion.

Not to mention that Republican congressmen plan to pay down the enormous federal deficit the bill will incur by slashing entitlements that, again, are critical to women: Medicaid (covering nearly half the births in the nation and 75 percent of family planning), Medicare (more than half of beneficiaries 65 and older — and two-thirds of those 85 and older — are women) and so on.

And that’s on top of all the other Trump administration insults: reviving the global gag rule on abortion, suspending tracking of the gender wage gap, deep-sixing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order and much more.

Which leads me to wonder, if we get rid of a handful of Harveys while losing essential rights and protections for millions of women, are we really winning this thing? How is this female calamity happening in the midst of the Female Revolution? An answer may lie in a schism that has haunted women’s protest for 150 years.

American women’s activism has historically taken two forms. One is an expression of direct anger at the ways individual men use and abuse us. It’s righteous outrage against the unambiguous enemy with a visible face, the male predator who feeds on our vulnerability and relishes our humiliation. Mr. Weinstein’s face is the devil’s face du jour, and the #MeToo campaign fits squarely in this camp. The other form is less spectacular but as essential: It’s fighting the ways the world is structurally engineered against women. Tied to that fight is the difficult and ambiguous labor of building an equitable system within which women have the wherewithal and power to lead full lives.

The clarion cry against individual male predation and the push for broader gender equality may seem part and parcel, especially now. When Donald Trump is the titular head of the machine, it’s tempting to imagine that the machine itself has orange hair — and that to defeat Harvey Weinstein is to win. But the patriarchy is bigger than the patriarch.

Monday, January 29, 2018

'End Times' Beliefs Are Extreme, and Extremely Influential

From Psychology Today:

Apocalyptic views are shaping policy at the highest levels.

David Niose Dec 12, 2017

To those who don't circulate in fundamentalist religious crowds, apocalyptic thinking—the belief that the world will soon be coming to an end, fulfilling biblical prophecy—might seem strangely fringe and hardly worth serious attention. Perhaps for this reason, the topic rarely gets much consideration in mainstream press. But it would be a mistake to be dismissive of “End Times” beliefs, because their influence in American policymaking is far from marginal.

A case in point is the recent declaration by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Though it was reported in the media that this move was intended to appease Trump’s conservative Christian base, few news accounts explained in any detail why the religious right considers the issue so important. Their motivation is not any desire to promote peace in the turbulent region, but in fact, the exact opposite: they sincerely believe the move will hasten the end of the world.

Robert Jeffress, a high-profile evangelical leader, praised Trump's decision, calling Jerusalem “the touchstone of prophecy.” The "prophecy" in question is the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, which depicts Jesus returning and an epic battle with forces of evil. Florida legislator Doug Broxson, while introducing Trump at a rally last week, couldn't contain his excitement over the policy change and its biblical implications: “I don’t know about you, but when I heard about Jerusalem – where the King of Kings [applause], where our soon-coming King is coming back to Jerusalem – it is because President Trump declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.”

“Evangelicals are ecstatic” about the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital “for Israel to us is a sacred place,” explained pastor Paula White, who led the invocation at Trump’s inauguration. The restoration of Israel, along with various events incidental thereto, is seen as a necessary condition for the End Times.

Israel may be a Jewish state, but many fundamentalist Christians clearly feel they have their own theological skin in the game. Scriptural interpretations vary, but the End Times are generally understood by believers as the culmination of all of history, the climactic point where God’s promises are fulfilled, where the righteous are rewarded and God’s wrath is delivered to unrepentant sinners. And the role of Israel in all of this Christian prophecy is central.

This perceived importance is reflected in poll numbers comparing the views of white evangelicals and American Jews on the question of whether they believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people: evangelicals hold the belief at a rate more than doubling that of Jews, 82 to 40 percent.

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