Monday, August 29, 2016

Women in the 21st century - their rights, their demands, and other stuff

You know, shoot me, I still like women. I don't mean I like them personally any more or less than men. People are individuals and I can like or dislike anyone regardless of gender or admire them or not, etc. I mean that I am at the advanced age of 57 still attracted to women physically (thank goodness) and though it is definitely with far less urgency than it used to be, plan on keeping it that way. I say "shoot me," because it appears that in modern society some people are offended by even the notion of two sexes, or that someone might be attracted to someone else, or heaven help us, treat them better because of their sex. It is not a majority, but it is a very vocal minority amplified by the media.

Reading an autobiography of one of my favorite humanists, Will Durant (actually a dual one with his wife), I was surprised to see that he found it so puzzling that he was still attracted to women in his old age. No big surprise. He was still producing testosterone.  Speaking with some male friends in their 70s and 80s, they told me that they have never stopped thinking about old girlfriends and their conquests in days gone by. I'm not sure they used the word conquest, but I think that would apply if used in the milder sense. It's not an actual war, but there is a hunt and capture all the same.

I want to talk about some of the issues of the day concerning women, as they are certainly topical. Obviously, with Hillary Clinton running for president, and the odds still in her favor, some of these things have been raised already and some have been issues for decades. As the Greatest would say - and away we go. . . .

Harassment at work

I don't know when the first laws were passed which protected women at work. I'm sure they were necessary then and now. Some men, and by that I mean some, not every or even most, but no doubt some, cross what should be inviolate lines at work. No man nor women for that matter has the right to touch another in a sexual (or, of course, violent) way without their consent, with some gray line being there for reasonable mistake - after all, someone usually has to make the first move unless you ascribe to the recent insanity concerning written consent, and I don't. But I don't mean by that it is a reasonable mistake to think someone wanted you to grab their breast who did not invite you. I mean perhaps touching an arm or going in for a slow kiss. If you are overly aggressive, even in days gone by you deserved to get slapped.

First, I do not understand the anger some people have at others having romantic or sexual relations at work. There's nothing wrong with it and I still think it is the most likely place to meet a significant other even in the internet age. Perhaps they are merely over-generalizing the complaint some have as to superiors dating their subordinates. But this too troubles me. No doubt there are wolves out there, and no doubt too that a boss or even a middle manager of either sex dating a subordinate can wreak havoc among the staff. But, I refuse to accept that we should throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The cliche fits. If 100 bosses date someone on their staff and ten of them are over the line about their behavior and another ten just obnoxious, and a third group of ten irritating on occasion but acceptable, what business is it of the rest of us to rain upon the dating lives of the other 70%.

Of course, I made the numbers up. But, if you doubled them I would probably still feel the same way. I'm not sure if you tripled them, but probably then too. The issue is with those who are abusive (we haven't gotten to how to define that) - not with those who are just going about their lives.

But the trend is to do this same overkill with many things. The written consent, actually required, if not frequently enforced on some college campuses, is a good example. To prevent the date rapist, or plain old rapist (as if it makes a difference to the victim), every decent young man is made suspect, and without that written proof, they are sometimes punished, just for the violation of the formal. How is that possibly right? Some would take it even further. They believe that a charge of sexual predation is equivalent to guilt, or at least the reversal of the normal rule that we are innocent until proven guilty.

And I do understand the logic behind it. They feel that centuries of overbearing, rapacious and criminal behavior is enough to crumble the cultural customs, habits of centuries, not to mention human nature. They believe that the devastation of the injury to those who are victims is beyond the point where we can be generous to those who are merely engaging in consensual and agreeable relationships of one sort or another (anywhere from a sexual encounter to long term marriage). An analogy to this approach can be made to seat belts. We don't only give tickets to those who don't wear their belts and have accidents. Anyone who doesn't wear a belt while driving - period - can get a ticket. We could, of course, do only the former, but that would not have any effect, or very little, on getting people to wear their belts.  Perhaps young people don't know, and older people forget, but at one time, that law was pretty controversial. Many people felt it was a government intrusion into personal decisions an adult at least should make on their own. In fact, I know one older fellow who does not wear a seat belt because it so offends him, even though he will tell you he knows it will increase his injuries or take his life. But, I doubt there are many who question it anymore, because the live and injury saving results are obvious to all. There was a time, out of sheer sleepiness or laziness (long story) I did not wear a belt. Though I would often tease those who insisted I wear one when I didn't feel like it with tomfoolery, I never seriously denied that it was not a good idea.

We are a Madisonian democracy (still, I hope, for a while) and we balance some things in our branches of government. When we are concerned with the risks of certain behavior, we balance our beliefs in the effectiveness of the approach to the gravity of the problem with our perception of the degree of its invasion in our lives against the costs in doing so, such as whether there should be environmental, smoking, safety or soft drink laws.  We rarely do this directly, instead, in our system, we vote for representatives who will in turn vote on laws. We will also balance the importance of the government's interest in an issue with the constitutional rights of individuals to determine their own lives. Our judges do this every day, although some few people still think they have no right or power to do so. It would take a revolution for that to stop, and I'm sure it would only stop it briefly, if at all. More likely, it would just substitute new, or re-frame old compromises.

Some women I've discussed the issue with have told me that I have no idea what I'm talking about concerning sexual harassment because I do not experience the day to day comments, looks and behavior which is sometimes overtly aggressive or hostile, other times just incredibly irritating or offensive. And, this behavior, they complain, is seen as normal or understandable behavior that they should blithely overlook. I don't doubt that they are right that many of them experience some degree or another of offensive behavior on a regular basis. Others, of course, have not. It is not unusual that the complaints of bad behavior in life can drown out more usual, even far more common beneficial behavior. We always make judgments as to how far we want to go to prevent bad things and that includes frequency of occurrence and impact of the occurrence. Rarely is it counterbalanced with an understanding of the beneficial things that come out of some behavior.  I have known a few women who believe that even a man smiling at a women, or looking at her, in a workplace, should be grounds for discipline. I didn't say that they weren't crazy, just that they exist. They are an extreme, but there is a spectrum of beliefs about what is acceptable, but they do not consider that smiling in an office might be beneficial.

I have asked both men and women the following hypothetical question (always with some variety). Sometimes I get a straight answer from men, but so far as I remember very few women have given me a straight answer to the question. They all give me an opinion, but not one that answers the question. I'll return to that. Here is the hypothetical: Imagine a female boss. On Friday night she runs into two male subordinates at happy hour. Monday comes and she calls Bob into her office. She says to Bob - "Bob, it was a mistake for us to fool around on Friday. You said you didn't want a relationship, just liked the idea of getting over on your boss, and I can't deal with it. Therefore, you are fired." She then calls in Tom - "Tom, I realized Friday that you are a good employee and always tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. But, I need someone who is afraid of me and obsequious. You are fired."

It doesn't really matter why Tom is fired in the hypothetical so long as it isn't for harassment or some other type of recognized discrimination or other reason that is typical of getting fired - like insubordination. You are boring, ugly, stupid, have offensive politics, I want to give my niece your job, and so on, all work.

The question is - why should Bob, who was perhaps shallow and callous, have a law suit against the company for participating in creating a dicey situation? In fact, one might argue more crudely that he got to have sex and has a law suit on top of that. And if he does (and he does, whether or not his callousness will hurt his chances), why shouldn't Tom have one (and he doesn't,) though he was a good employee fired for a bad reason? The obvious reason is that one was fired because of a sexually related reason and the other wasn't.

The real thread of the question is why do we take sexual indiscretions or politics and promote them over other work issues? Is it because more men are bosses and the problem usually falls on women subordinates. Because that's why I used a women as the boss and made the men the "victims." The fact is, the laws, at least now, generally prevent discrimination in every direction - even same sex, so long as the issue is sexually related.

Getting back to why do women avoid answering the question, but instead tell me that harassment is bad - I think the answer is because there really isn't a good objective reason why sexual discrimination is more important than other kinds. Even if you accept that women have less power because of the history of pretty much every culture (even the very rare matrilineal or polygamous ones), other people have less power who are not able to sue when they are rejected because of their superficial or perhaps substantive characteristics, at least in our modern society. A man who is by convention not very attractive or grossly overweight, or poor, for examples, might have a lot less power than a woman who is neither of those. The conclusion that there is no real good reason is not generally threatening to men, so they are free to accept that logically, even if they are very pro-sexual harassment laws. Women, I think, recognize as well there is no good reason, but feel deeper about sexual harassment, so just return to safe ground - the act is wrong. Maybe that all sounds sexist to you, but it is what I have experienced. There are, of course, some women who have answered similarly to the men, but no one of either sex has ever given me a sound reason why it should be discrimination resulting in a law suit.

When I was young I never heard about sexual harassment. Could be the first time was in the '90s. I knew people who had relationships with subordinates or their bosses. I can think of one that was arguably abusive, but not in the traditional way. The rest, not really at all. Sometimes there were heart breaks, sometimes marriages or both. Now, I can't conceive of working with a spouse. It just seems to be an invitation for screaming or angst. I'm sure some pull it off but, no thanks.

I also definitely behaved in a way with some women at work that today would be frowned upon, although, with one exception it was all what we then would call flirtation or dating or occasionally, just sex (as for the exception, she below). I enjoyed the chase but didn't want problems. No one complained that I remember (what they would remember in today's politically charged environment I can't say). I can't think of any of it that was not pursued equally by the woman, although if they raised it today and complained, I'd never be elected for public office.

I know that I behaved in certain ways in the '80s and '90s that would today possibly be deemed harassment. I flirted, massaged, joked and when I was in my 20s, even occasionally kissed women I knew in my office or building and touch ones who wanted to be touched or asked. It sure seemed to me, even looking back that it was all welcomed or invited. I wouldn't make a move on a women if I didn't think I was pretty sure I'd get a positive response. In my '30s I started a relationship with a secretary that still exists (and if it could be said I abused her then, boy has she gotten her revenge). I can think of a few times (three) I suppose I crossed a fairly unimportant line, but I can't say I felt guilty because they seem pretty innocuous transgressions back then and now. I'll leave the stories for another time because a couple make me blush. For those readers who know me personally and find it hard to believe anyone ever saw me as a sexual being - drop dead. In any event, my experience was hardly abnormal.

I have also seen some of what I considered inappropriate behavior by men in superior positions who were not in a relationship - boss, judge, etc. But, in no case did I find it abusive or so bad that I thought a lawsuit should arise. And, in the few where I did think it was inappropriate, there was no attempt at sexual contact, just unwanted flirtation, or dancing or jokes. I remember one women who cried to me because at a Xmas party her boss and another man made a "sandwich" of her on the dance floor. Did she invite it by flirting with the boss too often? That's a hard question. She and I both thought maybe. Was it that bad?  I've had women do it to me, and you know what, I didn't like it, but didn't feel harassed either. I know another women who teased guys sexually relentlessly, although she would not be physical with them, and complained when one thought she was coming on to her.

Anyway, I have seen instances of jokes where I thought women were unfair to men in terms of what they considered harassment just because they found them unappealing. In one place that I worked I had close to carte blanche to make whatever horrible jokes I wanted to with the women (I apparently goofed once with a comment about a co-workers "cancer ridden face" - she had a tiny growth that had to be removed - and hurt her feelings; but our humor was so rough in the office I thought everyone was kidding when they told me) and female co-workers frequently asked me to rub shoulders. Sexual kidding (not actually sex) was rampant in both directions. But, a friend who worked with me (will call him Bob) kind of creeped the ladies out, although he was a nice guy, and they would complain sometimes if he made a rare off-color joke. One even complained to the boss over the slightest of blue remarks by Bob, though she frequently took part in ribaldry herself. No doubt in my mind they were discriminating against Bob. Do I think he should have been able to sue? No.

Of course, I realize that this is just my life and that there are many women I don't know who have gotten brutally harassed physically, economically and mentally. And, of course, I think it is wrong. What I am talking about is not a clear case but the lower levels of it - what justifies a suit.

Some years ago New York City, obviously politically very liberal, passed an ordinance making much stricter work rules for harassment than the State or Federal government had. I was involved in one case which I thought was ridiculous (I really don't know what happened after I was off the case), but I think many women (I couldn't say if a majority or not), and probably some men, would have considered it a just suit. There were no insults or threats or sexuality, just some bragging about his sex life (which he himself acknowledged later could be offensive). For me, that's just dealing with people. I've found other non-sexual behavior far more offensive to me - such as jealously or backstabbing, than mildly sexual conversations.

Enough about that. As usual I went on too long and will have to give short shrift to the rest.

Equal pay for equal work

I don't have very strong opinions about this because I feel that there has to be a statistical analysis and greater familiarity with the facts to have something valuable to say. Personally, I have never worked anywhere where women doing the same job were paid less. Sometimes it seemed the opposite to me. However in some industries, it is clear that it exists. Probably the most dramatic example was illustrated by leading actresses (although, we are supposed to call everyone "actors" now - I'll get used to it). Rather than me blather on - https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jul/13/amanda-seyfried-paid-10-percent-less-male-costar-hollywood. Though there are certainly discrepancies about what differences are attributable to legitimate factual matters (e.g., education, personal choices, etc.), the disparity seems to survive all adjustments. I believe it exists. I do not believe, however, that it is an easy fix. Because if we just try to legislate it out by some arbitrary measure, we end up creating some merit-free zones, where salaries may be re-adjusted based on gender in favor of women. Now, I realize that as with racial issues, someone might say - really, so it was tolerable for centuries, and now you can't handle a little of reverse discrimination?

My answer is, if I thought reverse discrimination would really help and be for a short time, I could. But, I don't believe legal problems like this really go away until the social issues are resolved. We certainly see that 40 or 50 years of efforts to realign racial discrimination by giving minorities legal advantages (such as laws that make even a negative disparate impact on minorities which may be related to merit is deemed discriminatory despite no attempt to do so, affirmative action and other efforts), as opposed to outlawing actual discrimination, has not changed much - but better social attitudes has. In fact, some activists even acknowledge these things may harm minorities. I believe they do and I agree with the premise that the way to end discrimination is to end discrimination. Bringing it back to women and pay, making laws that will result in women having greater pay than men will not save the problem; it will avoid it and probably make it worse at the same time, taking management's ability to inspire by increased compensation secondary to gender claims.

Rape on campus

This is, of course, an important topic, and I have very strong feelings about it. First, I'm sure without researching it, that it has always existed since women went to college with men. I can't tell you how many women I have known in my age group who told me of their campus experiences -- sometimes rape, sometimes close escapes. Women who don't go to college too, of course, but the college campuses and the way they are run leads to opportunities and excesses (drinking, drugs) which all relate to it. In almost every case that I hear about personally, some drinking or drug use is involved.

Some people want to deal with the problem by outlawing being male. I jest, but barely. The federal government has tied funds to implementing systems that make an accused male facing criminal charges face administrative ones first - that is, putting him in peril of testifying in his defense with criminal charges pending. That is grossly unfair. Some schools have implemented a variety of consent rules, some requiring affirmative consent and others requiring written consent. These are absurd, and not only unfair to men, who they are primarily used against, but were made to be broken. Honestly, I would rather be thrown out of college than have to say - "may I kiss you?," "may I . . . ?"  Yes, sometimes for each act consent is required.

I have heard advocates on television and in print insist that women never lie about rape (they are either liars or delusional - women are people too) and that therefore every accusation of sexual abuse by a women should result in the man being presumed guilty. This one is not just stupid, it's barbaric. I'm not saying if there is strong evidence that non-consensual sex occurred that someone can't be arrested and charged, but short of very strong evidence, I would not be destroying anyone's academic careers such as occurred in the famous Duke University case. The prosecutor there went to jail and was disbarred. I wish some of the professors and administrators there had been punished for their reversal of everything we hold dear about due process.

I do believe there are solutions. It starts like this. If rape on your campus is a problem, first ban all alcohol and mind altering non-prescription drugs (whatever is legal - so, if pot is legal there, ban that too) on campus. Don't say it can't be done. My daughter went to a school which was dry and it generally worked. Not that you can't go outside campus, but then it is not the school's problem. I'm sure there are many reasons a school would say, we can't do it because no one will go here or we have alums. Whatever. That's fine. Just don't say you care that much about the rape problem, because that is likely the best way to partially solve the problem. Next, more lights, more guards and more cameras for nighttime, wherever kids will be walking from classes to parking lots or anywhere from dorms, etc. Last, and I know this will be controversial - parents, listen up - teach your daughters not to go anywhere alone with men they don't expect to have sex with. Not that it makes it rape their fault by doing so, but it might just spare them. I recently read that a major college is following just this path, at least with "hard" liquor. It's not far enough.

There's a special place in hell . . . .

Madeleine Albright, a former SecState, said during this campaign that there was a special place in hell for women who didn't vote for other women. That's up there as just plain stupid with Speaker Pelosi's famous - "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." And, in fact, Albright was roundly criticized for it.

Think about the implications. That a woman should vote for woman means that the first woman should not think about policy and the second woman's election should be based on her sex.

And, I have no doubt that many will do just that, just as some people voted for Obama because of his skin color. Even he admitted that - but also that some people voted against him for that reason.

It is also the basis of all identity politics:

1. It is not the quality of character of a person that matters, but the color of their skin (or sex, or other superficial characteristic). This is, of course, the opposite of MKL's famous formulation.

2. When an identifiable group has been historically oppressed, it is "just" to give them an advantage or practice reverse discrimination, even at the risk of damage to people who do not share their superficial quality and even to themselves.

Unfortunately, as I have said over and over, we have no good choices this election. That's happened before, so I'll add, never before have we had such poor choices.

But let me not quick divert from my topic again. On second thought, I have gone on long enough, having started and stopped this post for weeks. It seems, I have somehow taken most a long vacation from this blog.

But, I'm back, baby, I'm back.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .